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Posts Tagged ‘David Molk’

Arbitrary Michellanea discusses adventures in twitterdom

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Apparently you can’t congratulate a friend on twitter…

For us fans, bloggers and media-types, Twitter is a valuable way to learn real-time news and connect with the athletes we all watch. But for those athletes and other celebrities, it’s a terrible invention that always seems to create controversy and get them in trouble. The rise and popularity of Twitter over the last couple of years has necessitated the NCAA adding social media bylaws into its recruiting rules, one of which was apparently broken by Roy Roundtree last night.

Roundtree tweeted the above congrats to Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray who verbally committed to Michigan yesterday. Roundtree also attended Trotwood, and while he was not in high school at the same time as McCray, it’s highly likely he knew him from his association with the program over the last few years. Nevertheless, it’s considered a secondary NCAA violation.

While not a huge deal in and of itself – secondary violations of this sort happen all the time at every school – Michigan needs to tread lightly considering the probation brought on by Rich Rodriguez’s practice violations.

The exact same situation occurred last week when Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert tweeted a potential recruit, but an NCAA spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that those types of violations are considered “isolated” and “inadvertent.”

It’s a trivial rule, especially when a kid is congratulating another kid for making a big life decision, but the NCAA obviously feels that it has to police the public thoughts of college kids. I have no problem with Roundtree’s case, but Twitter is a problem in the case of recruits such as Yuri Wright and others.

Don’t trash talk through Twitter to counter someone who says he’s tougher than you…

Michigan center David Molk set off a minor fire storm last week with some comments made to the about his NFL Draft stock. Molk took offense to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who said Molk is a “finesse” player and that will hurt his draft stock.

One of these guys was the Rimington Award winner

“He never played against me,” Molk said. “I don’t think a finesse player has ever had defensive linemen quit during a game; quit and give up because you’re hurting them. I don’t think a finesse player has ever done what I do, which is just ground kids out of the hole.”

Mayock might do well to remember Molk’s Sugar Bowl performance, essentially playing on one leg after hurting a foot in pregame. He can also reportedly squat over 700 pounds and bench close to 500. That’s one tough and strong SOB. He probably won’t get drafted in the first three rounds, but it won’t be because he’s a finesse player.

But that wasn’t the only thing that ticked Molk off. He also said that he didn’t like that Wisconsin center Peter Konz was ranked ahead of him and was a first-team All-American. He says that he’s better than both Konz and Ohio State center Mike Brewster.

“I have skills he (Konz) doesn’t have,” Molk said. “Obviously my strength is far better, I’m faster, I would say I’m smarter. Obviously, he’s an intelligent person, I’ve talked to him, but I just think I have a technique that’s unmatched (by him).”

About Brewster, he added, “He’s nowhere near me as a player.”

Brewster took offense to the comment and tweeted “If they are talking then you are doing something right. And Molk, keep my name out of your mouth…”

Molk knows first hand how much better he is than Brewster. Molk’s teammate, defensive tackle Mike Martin, dominated Brewster in Senior Bowl practices. The numbers at the NFL Combine didn’t hurt Molk’s case either. Molk ranked second among all players with 41 bench press reps, compared to Brewster’s 29 and Konz’s 18.

Molk may end up getting drafted below both Konz and Brewster, but one thing is for sure: whichever team does draft Molk will be getting a steal. You really can’t fault a guy for being confident in himself, especially an offensive lineman where a mean streak is often appreciated.

Stealing our thunder is like stealing credit cards

As everybody knows, Michigan is tri-Big Ten champions with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. It took rooting for Ohio State on Sunday afternoon and a heroic effort by Buckeye senior William Buford to send Michigan into a frenzy for capturing a share of its first title in 26 years.

That is pure joy, pure exuberance by a group of underdog college kids ending a two-and-a-half decade drought, accomplishing the main goal it set out to achieve. But that didn’t stop ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb from raining on their parade. On his radio show on Monday, he criticized Michigan’s share of the title because the Wolverines didn’t play Wisconsin twice.

He does have a point that, in a perfect world, all teams in a conference should play the same in-conference schedule, but he’s off base in saying that because Michigan didn’t play Wisconsin twice it didn’t deserve a share of the title.

Michigan beat Wisconsin by 18 in its one meeting in Ann Arbor and Wisconsin went an unusual 5-3 at home in conference play, losing to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa. Michigan went 4-4 on the road in Big Ten play – the same as Michigan State – so a Wisconsin win would be far from certain. On the other hand, Michigan’s other one-play teams were Iowa, who it lost to on the road, Nebraska, who it beat by 16 on the road, and Minnesota.

Michigan State didn’t have to play Illinois or Northwestern twice – two teams it lost to in its only meeting – as well as Iowa and Penn State. Ohio State didn’t have to play at Purdue, who it barely beat at home, or Iowa, Minnesota, or Penn State.

Obviously, each of the three missed out on potential losses by not playing an equal schedule, but that’s the conference’s fault, not Michigan’s. At the end of the day, the banner will be raised, the year 2011-12 will be added to the record books, and the 16 members of the Michigan basketball team will go on as Big Ten champions regardless of what an ESPN talking head says.

No sleep til Brooklyn…

Michigan and West Virginia agreed to a basketball game in the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York next season as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. It’s the only game not featuring a regional team – the others being Princeton vs. Fordham, Long Island vs. Seton Hall, and Manhattan vs. South Carolina.

A rendering of The Barclay Center in Brooklyn

This is definitely intriguing for multiple reasons, the obvious being John Beilein’s first matchup against his former school. Beilein put West Virginia basketball on the map, taking the Mountaneers to the Elite 8 in 2005, falling to Louisville in overtime.

Secondly, Michigan has a huge alumni and fan base in greater New York city and this will give them a chance to see the Wolverines in action. The only other opportunities are when Michigan plays in either the preseason or postseason NIT, the last being the 2008-09* season when Michigan beat UCLA and lost to Duke in Madison Square Garden.

Finally, it will be a good opportunity for Michigan to play a quality non-conference opponent on a national stage. There will be plenty of fanfare about the new arena, which is bringing the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, and a Michigan win on that stage would only help with recruiting.

The Ohio takeover…

As mentioned above, Michigan got its 14th verbal commitment yesterday when Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray revealed his intentions to play for Brady Hoke and co. McCray is a four-star, currently rated the 44th-best overall player by Rivals. You might remember Trotwood as being where some guys named Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and Brandon Moore hail from. It’s a perennial power in western Ohio and Michigan is building itself quite the pipeline.

Michigan now has five commits from Ohio for the 2013 class, four of them currently rated four stars. Add those to the nine incoming freshmen from Ohio and one has to wonder what Jim Tressel is thinking right now, watching guys who he used to have in his pocket fleeing the state for “that school up north.”

The recruiting surge over the last month has been unheard of and has everyone talking about Michigan. Even Michigan State fans are starting to fear the return of the big two and little eight (ten).

* Michigan did play two games in Atlantic City, N.J. last season, but that’s not exactly in New York city.

Arbitrary Michellanea still has a chance

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Welcome to our new weekly column, Arbitrary Michellanea. It’s arbitrary because it won’t be all-encompassing; what is covered will be subject to what I choose to be most newsworthy or compelling based on what happens each week. It’s Michellanea because, well, it’s a varied collection of material with a Michigan twist. It will be similar to The Rear View Mirror column from football season, but this will become a permanent feature in and out of season. Essentially, it will serve as a roundup of the events from the past week that didn’t fit into some sort of game column, but aren’t necessarily worthy of a full post on their own. These will typically be midweek and will always focus on Michigan football, basketball, or other sports as deemed important (see: Lion Kim, Masters), as well as rivals and opponents as they apply to Michigan.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance…

Michigan’s loss to Purdue on Saturday narrowed the Wolverines’ Big Ten title hopes to very slim. But the first of four remaining hurdles to that goal was cleared last night when Indiana beat Michigan State 70-55 in Bloomington. Michigan State could have wrapped up the outright Big Ten title with a win and could still do so with a win on Sunday against 11th-ranked Ohio State, but for now, Michigan still has a chance to capture a share of its first title since 1986.

Remaining Schedule
Thursday at Illinois – 7pm
Sunday at PSU – 1pm
Sunday v. #11 Ohio State – 4pm
Wednesday at Northwestern – 8:30pm
Sunday at #5 Michigan State – 4pm

To do so, Michigan has to beat Illinois on the road on Thursday and Penn State on the road on Sunday. If both of those happen, Michigan will then be forced to root for Ohio State to beat Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday afternoon. In that scenario, the three teams would all share the Big Ten title. If Michigan loses a game, it is out of the running. The timing is such that Michigan will be able to win it’s final two games (Sunday’s game is at 1pm) and then sit back and watch OSU-MSU battle it out beginning at 4pm.

Spartan fans are already throwing out the line about Michigan “backing into” a Big Ten title just like it did a BCS bowl game, but let’s be very clear: in a tough and rugged Big Ten, Michigan held its own and if it ends up with a share of the title, it was earned. Yes, Michigan stumbled against Iowa and Purdue, but Michigan State lost to Northwestern, who Michigan swept, and Illinois, who Michigan has a chance to sweep on Thursday. Michigan also split the series against MSU, Ohio State, and Indiana (who MSU just lost to). Of course, this will all be for naught if Michigan falters on Thursday or Sunday, so the goal this week is to take care of business and then find it inside you somewhere to root for Ohio.

Stocking up for war

Over the weekend, despite the basketball loss to Purdue, Michigan did get some good news. Wexford, Penn. offensive lineman Patrick Kugler gave Brady Hoke his commitment on Saturday, adding to the long list of four-star recruits who have already pledged to Michigan for the 2013 class. Kugler is the 54th-ranked player in the Rivals 100 and the fifth four-star offensive lineman in the class. Add that haul (assuming they all hold their commitment until next February) the four that will be suiting up this August and Hoke has the foundation to carry the Michigan offense for years to come.

Urban Meyer has been stocking his own barracks with highly rated recruits ever since he took over, leading some to suggest the rivalry is headed back to the good old days. With Hoke’s insistence on referring to them simply as “Ohio” and Meyer continuing the name game by calling Michigan “That school up north,” not to mention his silly academic comparison last week, the rivalry certainly appears to be ramping back up to the days of old. Another ten year war could be in the making.

Stock is rising


Junior Hemingway stood out among receivers at the NFL Combine (photo by Dave Martin, AP)

The NFL Combine wrapped up yesterday and each of the three Michigan players in attendance helped his Draft stock with a solid performance. While Mike Martin fell short of his goal of breaking the all-time Combine bench press record, he still finished in the top four in every category among defensive tackles. His 36 reps were tied for second, his 4.88 40-yard dash ranked third, his 7.19 three-cone drill ranked third, his 4.25 20-yard shuttle ranked second, his 33.5 inch vertical ranked fourth, and his 113 inch broad jump ranked first.

Center David Molk beat Martin on the bench, completing 41 reps, which was seven better than the next closest offensive lineman, Stanford’s David DeCastro. Receiver Junior Hemingway also impressed, running a 4.5 40-yard dash, which was faster than most expected he was. He also tied for third among receivers with with 21 bench press reps, behind only Missouri’s Jerrell Jackson and California’s Marvin Jones, led all receivers in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, ranked second in the 60-yard shuttle, and ranked eighth in broad jump. It’s safe to say Hemingway turned some heads and his stock will rise thanks to his performance. He’s still a late round pick, but some team will take a chance on him in April.

30 years is a long time

Michigan basketball Academic All-Americans
Zack Novak 2012 (third)
Dan Pelekoudas 1982 (fourth)
Paul Heuerman 1981 (second)
Mark Bodnar 1981 (third)
Marty Bodnar 1980 (third), 1981 (first)
Steve Grote 1975, 1976, 1977 (first)

Last week, senior guard Zack Novak was selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America to the 2012 Capital One All America third team, becoming the first Michigan basketball player to do so since 1982. In order to be eligible for the honor, one has to be either a starter or a key reserve, achieve at least a 3.3 grade point average, participate in at least 50 percent of the team’s games, and reached at least sophomore status. He was one of just three Big Ten players to receive the honor, along with Northwestern’s Drew Crawford (second team) and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft (first team). Novak was among John Beilein’s first recruits at Michigan and helped restore Michigan basketball to a regular NCAA Tournament contender and this year, a Big Ten title contender.

Those Who Stay are Sugar Bowl Champions

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

It wasn’t exactly how Brady Hoke planned it, but Michigan’s 23-20 Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech was a fitting end to Team 132’s season. The squad that endured three of the worst years in Michigan history fought to the end on Tuesday night and came away with an ugly victory, fulfilling Bo Schembechler’s legendary statement that “those who stay will be champions.”

#13 Michigan 23 – #11 Virginia Tech 20

Final Stats

23 Final Score 20
11-2 (6-2) Record 11-3 (7-1)
184 Total Yards 377
56 Net Rushing Yards 163
128 Net Passing Yards 214
12 First Downs 22
1 Turnovers 2
4-26 Penalties – Yards 7-68
5-181 Punts – Yards 1-36
23:10 Time of Possession 36:50
4-for-13 Third Down Conversions 6-for-15
1-for-1 Fourth Down Conversions 1-for-3
2-4 Sacks By – Yards 3-25
3-for-3 Field Goals 4-for-5
2-for-2 PATs 0-for-0
3-for-3 Red Zone Scores – Chances 4-for-6

The seniors who endured more than perhaps any other senior class in the 132-year history of Michigan football came up big in New Orleans. Rimington Award winning center David Molk injured his foot in pregame warmups and missed the first series, but fought through the pain the rest of the game. Junior Hemingway came up with two outstanding touchdown catches to bail out quarterback Denard Robinson. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen held their own in the middle of the defense, tightening up when needed.

On a day when Robinson and Michigan’s electric offense was never able to get going, everything that has been Michigan’s downfall the past few seasons won the game. The defense that couldn’t stop anybody the last three years held Virginia Tech to its fifth-lowest total yardage of the season. It was truly a bend but don’t break defense that never did break, allowing Tech to convert third-and-longs with ease, but clamping down when it truly mattered. Kicker Brendan Gibbons, who lost the kicking duties last season after starting 1-for-5, continued the clutch kicking he has displayed all season by booting three field goals including a 39-yarder to put Michigan ahead with four minutes remaining and the 37-yard game-winner in overtime.

Michigan certainly got its share of breaks when the Hokies were penalized for roughing the punter late in the second quarter, an interception was overturned, Frank Beamer inexplicably called a fake punt from midfield late in the game, a touchdown in overtime was overturned, and Tech kicker Justin Myer missed a 37-yard field goal in overtime. Both calls could have gone either way, but seemed to be correct overturns. Regardless, it’s uncommon to see two close calls overturned in a game and even more uncommon for Michigan to get all the breaks.

It didn’t look promising for Michigan from the start when two poor snaps forced the offense out of rhythm and Michigan went three-and-out. Virginia Tech put together a solid drive, but Michigan forced a 37-yard field goal. On the next drive, Robinson was picked off by Kyle Fuller, giving VT a chance to widen its lead. But Michigan forced another field goal, this time from 43 yards out.

Junior Hemingway caught both of Michigan's touchdowns (photo by Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

After a Michigan punt, Virginia Tech put together another promising drive, but Michigan’s defense stuffed quarterback Logan Thomas on 4th-and-1 from the Michigan 4-yard line.

Michigan was forced to punt once again, but punter Matt Wile drew a roughing the kicker penalty, keeping the drive alive. On 3rd-and-17 from the VT 45-yard line, Robinson fired a back footer towards a double-covered Hemingway. It looked as if it would be picked off by the safety over the top, but Hemingway held on and cruised into the end zone putting Michigan ahead 7-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, J.B. Fitzgerald forced a fumble and Michigan recovered at the VT 26. On 4th-and-3 from the VT 19, field goal holder Drew Dileo ran to the right and threw a prayer towards the middle of the field. It bounced off a pair of Hokies before falling into the arms of lineman Jareth Glanda for a first down at the eight. A pass to the 1-yard line left Michigan with just two seconds left before halftime and Hoke elected to kick the field goal and take a 10-6 lead into the half.

The third quarter started out with a pair of punts and on the first play of Tech’s second possession, freshman Frank Clark picked off a Thomas pass, giving Michigan the ball at the Hokie 35. Four plays later, Robinson found Hemingway in the back of the end zone, again out-leaping the Tech safety and this getting a foot down in bounds. Just like that, with virtually no offense, Michigan had a 17-6 lead.

Tech wasn’t done, however, scoring 11 straight and keeping Michigan’s offense from widening the gap. With nine minutes remaining and the game knotted at 17, Tech faced 4th-and-1 from the Michigan 48. Instead of punting and pinning Michigan’s stagnant offense deep, Beamer chose to run a fake, which Michigan sniffed out and stopped, getting the ball back at the Virginia Tech 45. Robinson moved Michigan into field goal position and Gibbons gave the Wolverines a 20-17 lead with four minutes left.

But Tech put together another long drive, getting all the way down to the Michigan 8-yard line before facing a third down. A false start pushed it back to 3rd-and-7 and the Michigan defense stopped the Hokies two yards short. Myer nailed a 25-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime.

In the first extra period, after two straight runs for five net yards, Thomas connected with receiver Danny Coale in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. But after review, it was ruled incomplete and Tech was forced to settle for its fifth field goal of the game. This time, however, Myer pushed it right, giving Michigan the ball needing just a field goal to win.

Three runs by Fitzgerald Toussaint set up Gibbons in the middle of the field for a game-winning 37-yard field goal that was right down the middle, giving Michigan its first BCS bowl victory since a 2000 Orange Bowl win over Alabama.

Team 132 celebrating the Sugar Bowl victory (photo by Matthew Stockman, Getty Images)

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Team 132 became just the fifth Michigan team ever to win 11 games in a season, and it did so with defense. Tech’s offense came in averaging 415.8 yards and 28.5 points per game. Michigan held the Hokies to 377 yards and 20 points. Michigan also held running back David Wilson to his second-lowest rushing total of the season, 82 yards. He came in averaging 125 and had surpassed 123 yards in 10 of 13 games.

And so, what began with an embarrassing loss to Appalachian State, continued with two losing seasons without bowls, the worst three-year stretch in Michigan history, and NCAA sanctions, ended with wins over Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State, and a Sugar Bowl victory. The plight of the senior class of Team 132 was summed up in Sugar Bowl MVP Hemingway’s postgame interview on the trophy podium, with tears streaming down his face: “It shows our hard work. It shows everything we put in from Day One, all the long days, long nights. Man, I’m telling you, it feels good man. Too good.”

Hemingway himself serves as a microcosm of the entire senior class. He entered as a heralded receiver out of Conway, South Carolina and showed promise of breaking out as a sophomore when he caught a 33-yard touchdown in Michigan’s 2008 season opener against Utah. But he developed mono, forcing him to miss the rest of the season, receiving a medical redshirt. Over the next couple years, he fought injuries before becoming Robinson’s go-to guy this season. And when all was said and done he was the one who stepped up with two tremendous touchdown catches and earned the Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player award.

He’s just one of many seniors who will be missed next season, but their legacy will live on. Just like the Navy SEALS that Team 132 patterned its season after, Michigan found a way to get it done through adversity with grit and a determination that 10 wins was just not enough.

Michigan will head into the offseason with a likely Top 10 national ranking, 15 starters returning, and what should be a top 10 recruiting class. And when Team 133 takes the field in Dallas on Sept. 1 it may very well be the start of a national championship run against the defending national champions.

The Inaugural Maize and Go Blue Awards

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

[Ed.: This was started right at the end of the season in hopes of getting it out before the Michigan football bust, but then I bought a new house, moved, etc, which resulted in less free time and no internet access at home for a few weeks. We apologize for the lack of content lately].

The 132nd team in Michigan football history began play in September with a new head coach and plenty of returning talent. It opened with a rain-soaked three-quarter win over Western Michigan and continued on with the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history. It opened Big Ten play with a 58-0 route of Minnesota, then followed up with a second half comeback at Northwestern. It suffered defeat in East Lansing and Iowa City with a win over Purdue sandwiched in between, but bounced back with decisive wins over Illinois and Nebraska. And finally, it ended seven years of futility with a 40-34 win over Ohio State.

It’s hard to believe 12 games have already come and gone, but with season’s end comes awards and accolades. The All-Big Ten teams have been announced and Brady Hoke was named conference coach of the year, so we at Maize and Go Blue decided to announce our very first Maize and Go Blue Awards. Some of these will be painfully obvious and some you may disagree with, but we welcome the discussion and ultimately aim to honor the men of Team 132.

Harmon Player of the Year | Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson entered the season as a Heisman contender and almost singlehandedly beat Notre Dame in Week 2. However, his throwing mechanics seemed to tail off in the middle of the season, resulting in a number of interceptions and calls for Devin Gardner to replace him. But Robinson kept battling and delivered his best all-around performances of his career late in the season, including one of the greatest by any Michigan quarterback ever against Ohio State.

Last week, we found out that Robinson played much of the season with a staph infection on his arm and an abscess on his throwing elbow that at least in some part contributed to his midseason miscues.

He completed 133-of-237 passes for 2,056 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 1,163 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns. His rushing yards per game ranked 28th nationally and his total offense ranked 29th nationally. He also accounted for an average of 17 points per game, which ranked 15th in the nation, and despite his midseason passing struggles, he ranked 36th nationally in passing efficiency – just behind another preseason Heisman contender, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Fitzgerald Toussaint (1), Mike Martin (1)

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year | Denard Robinson

As stated above, Denard Robinson led the team rushing with 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished 28th nationally in rushing and 36th in passing efficiency.

He also got better as the season progressed. After a fast start, and great performance against Notre Dame, he struggled against Northwestern and Michigan State. But he rebounded with three of his best performances of the season in Michigan’s final three games against Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State.

Robinson moved into 8th place in career completions, passing yards, and rushing yards at Michigan, 6th in career touchdown passes, 100-yard passing games, and 200-yard passing games, and 5th in rushing touchdowns. He’s also just 679 rushing yards away from Juice Williams’ Big Ten quarterback rushing record, which he should easily break next season.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Fitzgerald Toussaint (1)

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year  | Mike Martin

Mike Martin was the rock of a Michigan defense that improved vastly in every statistical category from a year ago. Total defense ranked 18th nationally, rush defense ranked 35th, and scoring defense ranked 7th. While Martin didn’t have eye-popping numbers, he took on double-teams more often than not, freeing up the pass rush for the rest of the front seven. He was also solid in run defense, consistently clogging the middle of the line and taking away running lanes for opposing backs.

He made one of the best defensive plays of the season, fighting through the Purdue line to sack quarterback Caleb TerBush in the end zone for a safety to break a 7-7 tie. Michigan went on to score the next 27 points to put the game away.

Martin’s senior leadership and defensive tenacity was a stabilizing force for an all-around young Michigan defense. He benefited from Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison’s experience coaching NFL defensive linemen and had the best season of his career at Michigan. He finished with 54 tackles (5.5 for loss) and three sacks.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Jordan Kovacs (1)

Yost Coach of the Year | Brady Hoke & Greg Mattison (tie)

In his first year at the helm, Brady Hoke took an underperforming Michigan squad and guided it to a 10-2 record, falling just a few plays short of an undefeated season and a chance to play for the Big Ten championship. His display of composure on the sidelines, his hiring of top-notch coordinators, his willingness to call a gameplan with what he called ‘controlled agression’, and his beating of Ohio State make him a lock for the award.

Hoke was awarded the Schembechler-Hayes Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and the media (the media’s award is called the Dave McClain Award). It was his third conference coach of the year award in four years, having received the honor as head coach of San Diego State in 2010 and Ball State in 2008.

Many Michigan fans were skeptical of his hiring back in January, but one would be hard pressed to find a Michigan fan who hasn’t bought in at this point. In Hoke’s introductory press conference, he proclaimed that he would have walked to Ann Arbor (from California) if he had to. After nearly a year on the job, Hoke has won over players, almuni, and fans alike who would probably walk to California for him if they had to. He’s also putting the finishing touches on what will be a highly-ranked recruiting class coming to Ann Arbor next season.

According to Matt, “Hoke came in post-RichRod, turned this team around, went 10-2, became BCS eligible, and beat Ohio State.”

Greg Mattison is one of those coordinators that Hoke hired and was a genius pick. In Mattison’s second stint in Ann Arbor (he coached at Michigan from 1992-96), Mattison turned a defensive unit that ranked 110th nationally in 2010 and gave up the most points in Michigan history into the nation’s 18th-ranked total defense and 7th-best scoring defense. Not once all season did an opponent score as many points as the Michigan defense averaged allowing last season. Ohio State came the closest but was still one short.

The turnaround was most impressive because it was largely the same players as last year with the addition of freshmen Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Blake Countess mixed in. That Mattison can take the same defense, add three true freshmen to the mix, and produce what he did is nothing short of miraculous. The Michigan defense is in good hands as long as Mattison is coordinating it.

Chris picked Mattison, saying “Tough call between Hoke and Mattison but I had to go with Mattison because he was more directly responsible for the greatly improved play of the defense. His blitz schemes were a nightmare for opposing coordinators and his ability to get essentially the same players as last year to play like they did was top notch.”

Votes: Hoke (2), Mattison (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year | 40-34 win over Ohio State

Of all of the achievements this season – a 10-2 record, a BCS bowl game, beating Notre Dame at the last second, etc., the most satisfying for Michigan players, coaches, and fans was beating Ohio State and ending the seven-year drought. It wasn’t easy and the game had its share of twists and turns, but Michigan persevered and found a way to do what the previous seven Michigan teams could not: Beat Ohio.

The Buckeyes came in with a 6-5 record, a true freshman quarterback, and nothing to lose. The OSU offense was anemic all season, but in what would be interim head coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman’s last game on the reigns, they turned the offense loose. Instead of pounding the ball up the middle all game, they let quarterback Braxton Miller make plays with his arm and legs.

But Michigan traded blow for blow and scored the most points of any Michigan team against Ohio State since 1946. Denard Robinson played the best game of his career, hitting 14-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of the greatest performances by a quarterback against Ohio State in Michigan history.

The win ensured that another senior class would not graduate winless against Ohio State and served as a pleasing sendoff for the seniors who stayed through three head coaches and multiple coordinators.

“Streak ending statement game,” said Josh.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Howard Play of the Year | Denard’s TD pass to Roundtree to beat Notre Dame

Another unanimous selection, the 16-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson to Roy Rountree with two seconds left to beat Notre Dame proved to be one of the greatest moments of the season.

It was the much-hyped and nationally televised Under the Lights game, the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history. ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast live from Ann Arbor that morning and Brady Hoke needed the win to keep Michigan fans from another “here we go again” feeling.

The game itself was a candidate for game of the year and probably would have been had Michigan not ended its seven-year futility against Ohio State. It was back and forth throughout, but looked like Michigan was headed for a loss when Notre Dame answered a Michigan touchdown to take a three-point lead with 30 seconds to play. Michigan got the ball on its own 20-yard line, needing to drive 80 yards in 30 seconds to pull off a miracle. And that they did.

On the second play, Robinson found a wide open Jeremy Gallon on a wheel route for a 64-yard gain to the Notre Dame 16. One play later, Robinson floated a perfect jump ball to Roy Roundtree in the end zone. The junior receiver leaped above ND defensive back Gary Gray and hauled it in, touching a foot in bounds before falling out of bounds. Replay confirmed the catch and Michigan celebrated its third-straight win over Notre Dame.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year | Denard’s 5 TDs against Ohio State

Denard Robinson had his share of electrifying moments the past couple of seasons, even garnering Heisman talk at times the past to years. However, the major knock on the junior quarterback has been that he hasn’t played well in big games against the likes of rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. This time, in the season’s final game, he did.

Although Ohio State was limping in with a 6-5 record, it was still a rivalry game and Michigan was fighting the burden of the seven-year plague. Ohio State’s defense still had largely shut down two of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.

Robinson, however, was not to be stopped. He turned in one of the greatest single performances by a Michigan player against Ohio State in the history of the rivalry. He completed 14-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He became just the fourth Michigan quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in a game against Ohio State (the first since Drew Henson in 2000) and his 170 rushing yards were the third-most by any Michigan rusher against the Buckeyes (behind Tim Biakabatuka’s 313 in 1995 and Jamie Morris’ 210 in ’86).

“Big players come up big in big games,” said Chris. “Denard did not disappoint.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Friedman Quarterback of the Year | Denard Robinson

Unlike the Yost Coach of the Year award, in which two coaches very much deserved the honor, this one is painfully obvious. Even though sophomore Devin Gardner got some playing time, no one is going to name him quarterback of the year.

Denard Robinson followed up a stellar sophomore season with an even better junior season. While his numbers were down overall (1,163 rushing yards vs. 1,702 in 2010 and 2,056 passing yards vs. 2,570 in 2010), he developed as a quarterback and as a leader. There were times early in the season where questions arose about Denard’s progress, but by season’s end, he proved that the job is his and his alone.

He ranked 28th nationally and 5th in the Big Ten in rushing, breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. He completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, though his TD-to-INT ratio grew as the season drew to a close. Most importantly, he turned in his best performance in leading Michigan to its first win over Ohio State in eight years, throwing for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He became the fourth quarterback in Michigan history to throw for three touchdowns in a game against OSU – the first since Drew Henson in 2000 – and recorded the third-highest rushing total by any Michigan player against the Buckeyes.

Michigan fans should expect big things from Robinson in 2012.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Heston Running Back of the Year | Fitzgerald Toussaint

It took a while for Fitzgerald Toussaint to get going, but once he did, he turned in a phenomenal season. After rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the rain-soaked season opener against Western Michigan, Toussaint didn’t play against Notre Dame and carried just twice for seven yards in a mid-season loss to Michigan State. After that, however, he gained at least 120 yards in four of the remaining five games, averaging six yards per carry.

Toussaint finished sixth in the Big Ten in rushing, right behind Robinson, and 40th nationally. He also eclipsed the 1,000 mark, becoming the first Michigan running back to do so since Mike Hart.

For the season, he gained 1,011 yards and scored nine touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 91.9 yards per game.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Carter Receiver of the Year | Junior Hemingway

With the exception of the Notre Dame and Northwestern games, Michigan didn’t put the ball in the air often. The emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint allowed Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to utilize the passing game just enough to keep the defense honest for the running game.

Junior Hemingway was a guy that Michigan fans had been waiting to break out for years, but was always hampered by injury. This season, he did so.

Hemingway emerged as the main receiving threat with his ability to stretch defenses and go up and get balls in the air. He made several great plays against Notre Dame and Northwestern, out-leaping the defensive back to give a shot in the arm to the offense. He finished the regular season with 32 receptions for 636 yards and two touchdowns.

Against Notre Dame, Hemingway had three catches for 165 yards and a touchdown and against Northwestern, he caught five passes for 124 yards. His second and only other touchdown of the year came against Ohio State, putting Michigan ahead 16-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“Hemingway gave the offense a deep threat which had been lacking over the last few seasons,” said Josh. “When he was catching the ball, his ability to stretch the field opened up windows in the defense for other receivers to run into.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Roy Roundtree (1)

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year | David Molk

David Molk was everything you could possibly ask for at the center position. He was the rock of the Michigan offense and a senior leader both on and off the field. He was a First-Team All-America selection and the Rimington Award winner which goes to the nation’s top center.

While many things could be pointed to for Michigan’s offensive success throughout the entire season, one of the biggest is the stability Molk provided to the offensive line. That was all the more apparent in 2009 when Molk missed eight games due to various injuries and the offense fell apart.This season, he was healthy throughout, and the offense never missed a beat.

Off the field, while Robinson could be considered the face of Michigan football, Molk was usually the voice of Michigan football, providing positive soundclips and keeping the team focused and together. He was one of the few seniors who stayed and triumphed through three head coaches and multiple coordinators. He beat Ohio State and will play in Michigan’s first BCS bowl game since the year before he arrived in Ann Arbor.

“Center is the most important player on the line,” said Chris. “Molk came through with leadership and stellar play.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year | Mike Martin & Ryan Van Bergen (tie)

The best position group on a vastly improved Michigan defense, and also the hardest to replace next season, was the defensive line. It was manned by a pair of senior leaders, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, both of which share the Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

Martin was the clog in the middle of the defense that routinely took on double-teams and made it tough for opposing offenses to run the ball. Van Bergen had a knack for fighting his way through the line to pressure the opposing quarterback. Together, they formed the backbone of one of the Big Ten’s top units.

According to Josh, “While Martin was often fighting through double-teams, Van Bergen was making plays with his quick pass rushing abilities. He had five sacks, 12 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and four pass breakups. This is another Senior who will be difficult to replace.”

Votes: Martin (2), Van Bergen (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year | Jake Ryan & Kenny Demens (tie)

Last year’s linebacker corps was plagued with unsound fundamentals and poor tackling and the unit entered this season as one of the biggest question marks on the team. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton were gone and many wondered who would fill their spot. Kenny Demens entered the scene last season, but no one else had stepped up. Enter Jake Ryan.

The redshirt freshman broke out to provide some much-needed playmaking ability and combined with Demens to provide stability to the linebacking corps.

He finished the season with 30 tackles, seven for loss, and also recorded two sacks and recovered two fumbles. Against San Diego State, he recorded five tackles, one for loss, and two fumble recoveries. He was named to the and Big Ten All-Freshman team.

Demens led the team in tackles with 86, five for loss, and also tallied three sacks. He recorded a team-high 12 tackles against Notre Dame and also helped slow down Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, adding eight tackles and an assisted sack.

He was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honoree.

“Led the team in tackles and was a force in the middle of the field,” said Chris.

Votes: Ryan (2), Demens (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year | Jordan Kovacs

Over the last couple of seasons, Jordan Kovacs has become one of the team’s most popular players. The former walk-on who earned a scholarship last season did a little bit of everything on defense.

He was second on the team in tackles with 64, second on the team with eight tackles for loss, tallied four sacks, forced two fumbles, recovered one, and picked off a pass.

In the season-opening win over Western Michigan, Kovacs led the team with 10 tackles, two for loss, recorded a pair of sacks, forced a fumble, and recorded a pass breakup. For his effort, he was named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week.

He also made one of the key defensive plays of the season when he sacked Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa on fourth down to give the ball back to Michigan and seal the win.

He was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Blake Countess (1), J.T. Floyd (1)

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year | Brendan Gibbons & Jeremy Gallon (tie)

It’s fitting that two players split the special teams player of the year award given that Michigan’s special teams was a disaster the past couple of seasons and improved immensely this year.

A year ago, Gibbons made just made just 1-of-5 field goals before being replaced by Seth Broekhuisen for the remainder of the season. The kicking game was so bad that Rich Rodriguez elected to forego kicking unless the team was within about 30 yards. This year was a drastic turnaround. Gibbons hit 10-of-14 field goals and 52-of-53 extra points.

The night-and-day difference between last season and this was on display in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. Holding onto a three-point lead with two minutes left, and facing fourth-and-goal from the OSU-26, Hoke sent Gibbons out to attempt what would be a career long. With the pressure of the seven-year plague on his back, Gibbons nailed it, pushing the lead to six, and making Ohio State have to score a touchdown to win rather than a field goal to tie.

Another sore spot for Michigan the past couple years was the return game. Aside from not getting return yards, Michigan’s returnmen had trouble catching the ball. Michigan fans held their breath every time a punt was in the air, arcing down toward a Michigan returnman. Not so this year.

Jeremy Gallon provided a solid receiver on punts and proved capable of picking up yards as well. He averaged 10.1 yards per return and his 32-yard return against Illinois set up a Michigan touchdown. He was named an All-Big Ten Special Teams third teamer by Phil Steele.

Votes: Gibbons (2), Gallon (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Hart Newcomer of the Year | Blake Countess

As a true freshman, Blake Countess certainly impressed. He added a playmaking cover corner to a Michigan secondary that was desperately in need of one after getting torched game-in and game-out last season. He played in 11 of the team’s 12 games (10 at cornerback) and earned a starting spot in the last five.

Countess totaled 36 tackles, one for loss, and was second on the team in pass breakups with six. Against San Diego State, he tallied seven tackles and a pass breakup, and made a fantastic touchdown-saving pass breakup against Ohio State in the season finale (pictured right).

He was named to the and Big Ten All-Freshman team.

“Came into a starting role and never relinquished it,” said Josh. “Played with maturity and poise beyond his true freshman status.”

Chris was also impressed, saying, “The addition of Countess to Michigan’s secondary mid-way through the season was an excellent move by the coaches. In five starts, Countess had 36 tackles, 6 PBUs, and 1 forced fumble. Not bad for a true freshmen in such a short game span. Opposing QBs had to account for him on every passing play.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Drew Dileo (1)

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year | Mike Martin

Mike Martin was a senior leader who stuck it out through three head coaches, multiple defensive coordinators and various schemes. He very easily could have departed for the NFL after his junior season rather than try to learn a new scheme, but he stuck it out and emerged better off for it. The coaching he received from former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison should certainly help out his NFL Draft stock.

He routinely took on double teams, freeing up Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh to rush the passer, and clogged the middle of the line, making it hard for opposing running backs to find holes.

“Martin was the leader of this defense, starting in the offseason when Hoke was first hired,” said Chris. “He helped Hoke get the rest of the defense (and the team) to buy into the new coaching staff. Losing Van Bergen’s abilities off the edge will hurt too, but it’s always tough to replace a leader like Martin.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year | Brendan Gibbons & Fitzgerald Toussaint (tie)

As noted above in the special teams player of the year award, Brendan Gibbons showed vast improvement compared to a year ago. He went from 1-for-5 last season to a dependable 10-for-14 this season. And when it mattered most, he connected on a career long 43-yarder in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. With two years of eligibility left, it looks as if Michigan will be solid at kicker at least until he graduates.

Fitz Toussaint also gets the nod because of the way he broke out in the second half of the season. He battled injuries a year ago when he got just eight carries for 87 yards all year. Of those 87, 61 came on one run. This year, he busted out for 1,011 yards on 174 carries, becoming a dependable every-down back and a perfect complement to Denard Robinson in the backfield. Like Gibbons, Toussaint is just a sophomore, ensuring two more years to continue improving and leaving Michigan with a solid running game.

“Emerged as the go-to back,” said Josh. “Gave offense a much needed added dimension to take pressure off Denard.”

Votes: Gibbons (2), Toussaint (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Game 9 Preview: Iowa

Friday, November 4th, 2011

If you look up the color pink in Wikipedia, it is described as “commonly used for Valentine’s Day and Easter, pink is sometimes referred to as “the color of love.” This week, when Michigan travels to Iowa City, the Wolverines will dress in the Hawkeyes’ pink visitors locker room.

#13 Michigan v. Iowa
Saturday Nov. 5
12 p.m. ET
7-1 (3-1) Record 5-3 (2-2)
Western Michigan 34-10
Notre Dame 35-31
Eastern Michigan 31-3
San Diego State 28-7
Minnesota 58-0
Northwestern 42-24
Purdue 36-14
Wins Tennessee Tech 34-7
Pittsburgh 31-27
Louisiana-Monroe 45-17
Northwestern 41-31
Indiana 45-24
#23 Michigan State 14-28 Losses Iowa State 41-44 OT
Penn State 3-13
Minnesota 21-22
34.8 Scoring Offense 32.6
245.4 Rushing YPG 159.1
195.9 Passing YPG 243.5
441.2 Total Offense 402.6
14.6 Scoring Defense 23.1
138.2 Rush Defense YPG 163.6
194.6 Pass Defense YPG 238.6
332.9 Total Defense YPG 402.2
20 Takeaways 12
14 Giveaways 9
15/10 Sacks By/Allowed 12/17
49-of-96 (51%) Third-down Conv. 40-of-92 (43%)
6-for-8 (75%) Field Goals 12-for-16 (75%)
32.7 Net Punt Avg. 40.1

Senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen had the best quote of the week so far, saying “I love the pink locker room. I’ve never had an issue with the pink locker room. I think it gives it nice decor, the feng shui really feels good before the game. It warms you up, it’s very welcoming.

“I think more teams should go with the pink,” he continued. “I have no problem with it. I think it’s a great touch. It’s better than the off-white jail-cell look. So, I say paint ’em up.”

Whether Van Bergen was joking, being serious, or just playing reverse psychology, the fact remains that a win in Kinnick Stadium for the first time since 2005 will have Michigan fans across the country feeling the love for Coach Brady Hoke.

Michigan’s last win in Iowa City was a 23-20 overtime thriller in 2005, ending the Hawkeyes’ 22-game home winning streak. The last time Michigan visited Iowa, it fell two points short of an upset of the 12th-ranked Hawkeyes when Denard Robinson’s comeback attempt was picked off.

This time, Michigan is the ranked team entering the matchup while Iowa limps in with its tail between its legs after losing to Minnesota, which still ranks eighth-to-last in the nation in points per game.

Prior to last week, I was cautious about the Hawkeyes, who really haven’t beaten a good team all season, but played Penn State tough in Happy Valley. After last Saturday, I’m convinced that the Hawkeyes just aren’t very good. But does that mean Michigan should breeze to victory? Let’s look at the position-by-position matchups:


James Vandenberg is the Big Ten’s second-best passer, trailing just Russell Wilson of Wisconsin. He completes 62.2 percent of his passes for 239.8 yards per game and 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions. In other words, he’s efficient like Iowa quarterbacks typically are.

Against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Vandenberg threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns. Against Penn State, however, he completed just 50 percent of his passes for 169 yards and two interceptions. So he is vulnerable. He’s in his first year as a starter, taking over for the departed Ricky Stanzi.

Everyone knows who Denard Robinson is by now and he can look back to that 2009 loss as his coming out party. He played well in last year’s loss as well, completing 13-of-18 passes for 96 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and rushing 18 times for 105 yards.

So far this season, he’s in the middle of the pack among Big Ten signal-callers, but leads the nation in quarterback rushing yards per game, and ranks fifth in the conference in rushing. He has been held under 100 yards rushing in three of the past four games, however, last week can be attributed largely to the emergence of Fitz Toussaint.

Edge: Michigan

Running Backs:

Marcus Coker leads the Big Ten in rushing (photo by Tom Olmscheid, AP)

Iowa features one of the nation’s best in Marcus Coker. Just a sophomore, Coker is the nation’s ninth-ranked rusher (and Big Ten’s best), averaging 121 yards per game. He has racked up 10 touchdowns, including two in each of the last three games. Last week, he lit up Minnesota for 252 yards on 32 carries (7.9 yards per).

For the Hawkeyes, Coker is pretty much a one-man show. Freshman De’Andre Johnson is the second leading rusher with just 79 yards on 18 carries, while Vandenberg has the second most carries on the team with 52. Nobody else has more than nine.

For Michigan, the moment fans have been waiting for all season occurred last week: a running back emerged. Toussaint carried 20 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns, none more impressive than the 59-yard romp in which he took a pitch from Devin Gardner, rushed left, then cut back across the field to the right, splitting a pair of defensive backs, and sped to the end zone. If he hadn’t already, he’s now the leader in the clubhouse as far as running backs are concerned in Ann Arbor.

Vincent Smith averages 6.5 yards per carry and is a solid change-of-pace back, but not an every down back like Toussaint, while Michael Shaw adds the speed to get to the edge when needed. It’s becoming a nice three-way punch for the Wolverines.

Edge: Even

Receivers and Tight Ends:

Just like at the running back position, Iowa has one of the league’s best at receiver. Marvin McNutt is a senior who has been around the block and is having his best season yet. The tall, lanky McNutt has 48 receptions for 858 yards, good for second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally. His nine touchdowns as tops in the conference. His best game of the season was a six-catch, 184-yard, three touchdown performance against Indiana two weeks ago in which he set the school’s career receiving touchdown record.

Unfortunately for Michigan, he’s not the only receiver the Hawkeyes have. Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley are both dangerous, with seven touchdowns between them. Davis caught 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh and also eclipsed 100 yards against Northwestern. He missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle, but should return tomorrow. Martin-Manley is the slot guy who had to move outside in Davis’ absence and caught five passes for 35 yards.

Michigan has a handful of talented receivers, but the passing game has yet to take off, partly due to the running game and partly due to Robinson’s struggles through the air, as evidenced by his 12 interceptions. Junior Hemingway is the most dangerous at getting behind the secondary, having two 100-plus-yard receiving games, but in the last two games has caught just five passes for 59 yards.

Perhaps the most featured receiver in the offense as the season progresses is diminutive sophomore Jeremy Gallon. In five of Michigan’s eight games so far, he has a reception of at least 24 yards, including each of the last three. In the last four games, he has 15 receptions for an average of 60 yards per game.

Even so, Iowa has the best overall receiver and a better passer to throw to them.

Edge: Iowa

Marvin McNutt is the Big Ten's second-leading receiver (photo by Brian Ray, AP)

Offensive Line:

Iowa traditionally has a good offensive line, but it has been good but not great this season. It is a unit filled with upperclassmen and led by left tackle Riley Reiff, a likely first round selection in next year’s NFL Draft. Despite one of the nation’s top individual running backs, Iowa’s line has paved the way for the nation’s 60th-best rush offense and allows just over two sacks per game, good for 73rd nationally.

Michigan’s line has paved the way for the nation’s ninth-best rush offense, averaging 253.3 yards per game, and is 33rd nationally in sacks allowed with 10 through the first eight games. Seven of those were against Michigan State. David Molk is the unquestioned leader at center and left tackle Taylor Lewan has been solid all season.

Edge: Michigan

Defensive Line:

Iowa averages about a sack and a half per game and gives up 163 yards rushing per game. To be fair, the Hawkeyes are still stinging from the loss of three starters to the NFL, including first-rounder Adrian Clayborn and fourth-rounder Christian Ballard. The leader of the unit is senior defensive end Broderick Binns who has three sacks, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. Tackle Mike Daniels is experienced and leads the team with four sacks.

Michigan’s line has done well all season with the exception of the lone loss, to Michigan State. Mike Martin is always a beast in the middle, but he recorded his first two sacks of the season last week against Purdue, including one in the end zone for a safety. End Craig Roh has three sacks and seven tackles-for-loss, while Ryan Van Bergen has had a quiet, but efficient season so far.

Edge: Michigan


Sophomore James Morris leads the Hawkeyes (and the Big Ten) with 11 tackles per game, while fellow sophomore Christian Kirksey ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 9.5 per game. They’re an active unit, but have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks, which should result in a big game for Robinson.

Last week, Michigan replaced Brandin Hawthorne with true freshman Desmond Morgan at weak-side linebacker. The results were mixed, but Morgan is a heady player who goes full-speed. Middle linebacker Kenny Demens has been up and down and redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, while still making some mistakes, seems to improve each game. He had a couple of great plays last week, including a one-handed take-down of the Purdue running back in the backfield.

Edge: Even


Iowa’s secondary is probably its most experienced unit, led by strong safety Jordan Bernstein. The senior is third on the team in tackles with 45 and has a sack. Cornerback Shaun Prater has an interception returned for a touchdown while fellow corner, Micah Hyde, has three picks and six pass break-ups on the season (which leads the Big Ten). While experienced, the unit still ranks 81st nationally in pass defense, giving up 238.6 yards per game through the air – 44 yards more than Michigan allows.

Michigan has made some changes to its starting secondary, moving Troy Woolfolk to safety to fill Jordan Kovacs’ spot while he’s out with an injury. The rise of freshman corner Blake Countess has allowed Woolfolk to make the move. Countess saw limited action early in the season, but has four pass break-ups and a forced fumble and looks to be Michigan’s best corner already. Safety Thomas Gordon has done a good job and is typically a solid tackler and doesn’t get beat deep. Michigan’s pass defense ranks 26th nationally, giving up just 196.3 yards per game.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams:

Iowa has a pretty good kicker in Mike Meyer (no, not that one), but he did miss 24- and 43-yarders last week. He’s still 12-of-16, with a long of 50. Punter Eric Guthrie averages 42 yards per punt, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten.

Michigan’s Brendan Gibbons has been surprisingly solid this season, connecting on 6-of-8 field goals, including two last week. His long is just 38 yards, so don’t count on anything long. Punter Will Hagerup is averaging just 34.8 yards per punt, but has done a good job of placing inside the 20.

Edge: Even


Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to win, but Michigan is 15-5-1 there all-time

Kirk Ferentz isn’t flashy. He’s in the same mold as Lloyd Carr and generally fields tough teams that are susceptible to playing down to opponents (re: last week). However, they’re always tough in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium.

Brady Hoke has won over nearly everybody in Ann Arbor since replacing Rich Rodriguez. His even-keeled demeanor and trust of his coordinators are a refreshing change on the sidelines and if he can beat Iowa on the road, he’ll already have fans believing Michigan is back.

Edge: Michigan


While Van Bergen insists he doesn’t mind the pink locker rooms, the intimidating Kinnick Stadium is another factor in and of itself. Iowa is always stingy at home. The good news for Michigan is that Denard already played there in his freshman season, so he shouldn’t be intimidated.

The natural grass playing surface was replaced with Field Turf in 2009, when Michigan last played there, so the Wolverines won’t have to worry about having its speed advantage negated. The weather forecast looks good: mid-to-high 50s and sunny, so it shouldn’t be a factor.

Edge: Even

Iowa runs a pretty straight-forward pro-style offense. Coker is a load and McNutt will be a handful, but if there’s anything Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison knows how to do, it’s gameplan. It’s easy to see how his defense could struggle a bit against spread running offenses such as Northwestern’s in the first half, but Iowa’s isn’t anything out of the ordinary.

They use Coker to set up a lot of play-action and if you give Vandenberg time to throw he can be deadly. Minnesota succeeded last week when blitzing off the edge, so expect Mattison to dial up some well-timed blitzes. Coker runs almost exclusively up the middle.

When Michigan has the ball, it should be able to move fairly well. Minnesota’s anemic offense scored 22, Iowa State’s 79th-ranked scoring offense scored 44, and Indiana’s 89th-ranked scoring offense scored 24 against the Hawkeyes. Iowa gives up over 400 yards per game and the best offense it has faced all season is Northwestern.

Minnesota got 101 yards on 5.1 yards per carry out of Duane Bennett last week, along with 61 yards from quarterback Marqueis Gray. Penn State’s Silas Redd racked up 142 yards on 5.1 yards per carry four weeks ago. Look for a lot of Toussaint early, but also a lot of designed runs for Denard. After the running game gets going, Michigan should open it up a little bit against Iowa’s 81st-ranked pass defense.

Expect Offensive Coordinator Al Borges to do just enough to win without needing to divulge much of the remaining play book that could be used against Nebraska and Ohio State at seasons’ end. It will be a close game early, but Michigan will be too much for the Hawkeyes to keep up with. Michigan should have this one under control in the fourth quarter.

Michigan 38 – Iowa 27

Good to Know:

Michigan leads the all-time series 40-12-4, including 16-5-1 at Iowa

Michigan’s three October wins were more than the las three Octobers combined (two)

In each of the last five games, Michigan scored a touchdown on its opening possession

Denard Robinson leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in yards per completion (16.74)

Michigan ranks first in the nation in red zone defense, giving up scores on just 15-of-25 chances (60 percent)

Michigan has outscored its opponents 135-49 in the second half and 229-68 from the second through fourth quarters

Fitz Toussaint’s 170 rushing yards were the most by a Michigan running back in a conference game since Mike Hart’s 195 yards against Minnesota in 2006

Michigan’s offense ranks 2nd in the Big Ten and 7th nationally in third down conversions (51 percent)

Michigan has committed just 34 penalties through eight games, which ranks 1st in the Big Ten and 9th nationally

Record Watch:
With 2 passing touchdowns, Denard Robinson will tie Brian Griese (1994-97) for 8th place on Michigan’s career list. With 4, he will tie Tom Brady (1996-99) for 7th

With 104 passing yards, Denard will pass Rick Leach (1975-78) for 9th in career passing yards. With 203, he can pass Brian Griese (1994-97) for 8th

With 23 rushing yards, Denard will pass Gordon Bell (1973-75) for 9th on Michigan’s career rushing list

With 1 rushing touchdown, Denard will move into a tie with Tom Harmon (1938-40) and Billy Taylor (1969-71) for 7th place. With 2, he will reach Steve Smith (1980-83) for 6th

With 50 receiving yards, Junior Hemingway could move into the top 20 in career receiving yards, passing Ralph Clayton (1976-79), John Kolesar (1985-88), and Adrian Arrington (2004-07)

Game 7 Preview: Michigan State

Friday, October 14th, 2011

There comes a time when you say to yourself enough’s enough. You’ve always dominated and gotten your way, but recently your little brother has snuck up and stolen a few cookies from the cookie jar while you were on a diet. Those cookies always looked so tempting, but you just couldn’t quite muster up the courage to take one. And little brother taunted you with them.

#11 Michigan v. #23 Michigan State
Saturday Oct. 15
12 p.m. ET
6-0 (2-0) Record 4-1 (1-0)
Western Michigan 34-10
Notre Dame 35-31
Eastern Michigan 31-3
San Diego State 28-7
Minnesota 58-0
Northwestern 42-24
Wins Youngstown St. 28-6
Florida Atlantic 44-0
Central Michigan 45-7
Ohio State 10-7
Losses Notre Dame 13-31
38.0 Scoring Offense 28.0
257.0 Rushing YPG 128.8
200.5 Passing YPG 269.2
457.5 Total Offense 398.0
12.5 Scoring Defense 10.2
134.0 Rush Defense YPG 64.0
202.5 Pass Defense YPG 109.4
336.5 Total Defense YPG 173.4
17 Takeaways 10
11 Giveaways 7
11/2 Sacks By/Allowed 14/5
39-of-68 (57%) Third-down Conv. 25-of-71 (35%)
4-for-6 (67.7%) Field Goals 7-for-10 (70%)
35.6 Net Punt Avg. 33.7

Then, one day, you’re not quite to where you want to be, but you decide to put a stop to it. By god, those are your cookies. and you’re sick of being taken advantage of. So you hired a new nutritional coach who gives you a great game plan that even includes an indulgence of a few cookies here and there. Little brother comes looking for his cookies and they’re gone. His short stint as the cookie monster is over and he’s relegated back to longing to be you.

Obviously that’s a silly example, but it’s by and large the situation Michigan faces tomorrow. For 103 years, Michigan has dominated the rivalry, winning two-thirds of the meetings. When the Paul Bunyan trophy was introduced in 1953, Michigan State won it, but Michigan has brought old Paul back to Ann Arbor 34 times to MSU’s 22.

In the past three years, however, Little Brother woke up…or, rather, capitalized on an advantageous situation. Rich Rodriguez was brought in to bring Michigan into modernity, and we all know the story. Michigan State swooped in and won all three meetings.

Now, Rodriguez is gone and Brady Hoke has brought a new attitude to Ann Arbor – one that hearkens tradition and values rivalries. He’s already one-for-one, having beaten Notre Dame in Week 2, and now he could become the first Michigan head coach since Bennie Ooosterbaan in 1948 to beat Michigan State in his frist season as head coach. Bo Schembechler lost his first matchup 23-12 in 1969, Gary Moeller lost 28-27 in 1990, and Lloyd Carr lost 28-25 in 1995.

Michigan State enters tomorrow’s matchup 4-1 and ranked 23rd nationally, boasting the nation’s No. 1 ranked total defense. Does Michigan have a chance to end the three-year drought? Let’s take a look at the matchpus.


Kirk Cousins is a senior three-year starter and three-time captain. He has a 20-10 record as MSU’s starting quarterback and has a chance to tie Jeff Smoker (2000-03) for the school record if he beats Michigan tomorrow. So far this season, Cousins has been accurate (67.8 percent) and has thrown for 1,197 yards and six touchdowns.

He’s not much of a runner, so Michigan won’t have to worry about a Northwestern-style offense that it had trouble stopping in the first half last week. He has a decent arm but the offense is more tailored towards short-to-intermediate passes and a power run game. He’s efficient and accurate with outs, slants, curls and the like and has the ability to throw deep every now and then.

He’s likely to be the best quarterback Michigan faces all season, but the Michigan defense has faced its share of good signal-callers so far in Alex Carder, Tommy Rees, Ryan Lindley, and Dan Persa. It gave up a lot of yards to Rees, but got the better of him in the end, and contained the others pretty well. All this to say that while Cousins is good, Michigan and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison certainly won’t be afraid of him.

Denard Robinson is arguably the most dangerous player in the country and the most important player to his team in the Big Ten. He hasn’t always been consistent this season, but he has displayed the ability to win with his legs or his arm. Most people think of him as a running back playing quarterback, but as he showed in the second half against Notre Dame and last week, he can put the ball in the air when needed. It’s just a matter of whether the good-throwing Denard or the back-foot-throwing Denard will show up.

Last year, Michigan State was the first team to bottle him up, holding him to just 86 rushing yards on 21 carries (4.1 yards per) and 215 passing yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. He’s still prone to mistakes when pressured, but he’s not the same player he was a year ago and this isn’t the same offense either. Rest assured Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges will have a good plan to neutralize State’s powerful front seven.

Edge: Even

Le'Veon Bell is a good running back behind an underperforming line (photo by Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

Running Backs:

Michigan State features a pair of good running backs in Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. Bell leads the team with 267 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Baker is close behind in yards with 252 yards on 4.1 yards per carry, but just one touchdown. They’re a punishing duo because they give the Spartans two nearly equal bruisers to rotate in and keep fresh. In addition, junior Larry Caper has been a thorn in Michigan’s side the past two years, scoring the winning touchdown in overtime in 2009, and an eight-yard touchdown last season to break the game open. The big question, however, is whether Michigan State’s underperforming offensive line will be able to rise to the occasion, but more on that in a little bit.

Michigan also has a good stable of backs. Though individually they probably aren’t as talented as pure the Spartan trio, but they work well in Michigan’s offense, giving it plenty of versatility. Fitz Toussaint is the between the tackles back leading all UM running backs with 326 yards on 5.4 yards per carry and four touchdowns. But it’s Vincent Smith who is probably the Wolverines best all-around back. He has just 214 yards, but is averaging a whopping 7.4 yards per carry, is a threat as a receiver (seven catches for 104 and two touchdowns) and is solid at picking up blitzes. Michael Shaw is the speed back who can get to the edge as we saw in the second half of last week’s game.

Michigan’s running game ranks seventh in the nation, averaging 257 yards per game. Much of that is thanks to Robinson, but the backs can get the job done.

Edge: Even


There’s no question who the go-to guy is for the Spartans. Senior B.J. Cunningham has 36 receptions (twice as many as the second-leading receiver) for 582 yards and two touchdowns. He ranks second in the Big Ten in yards per game and receptions per game and he’s a big-bodied NFL-type wideout who is hard to defend. He’s gone over 130 yards in three of the Spartans’ five games so far this season.

Keshawn Martin is the Spartans second-leading receiver with 19 receptions for 177 yards. He’s the slot guy who could terrorize Michigan’s defense tomorrow as it focuses on stopping Cunningham. Last season, he led MSU with six catches for 69 yards against Michigan. Outside of those two, only former quarterback Keith Nichol has more than 100 yards. He’s ok, but about as good a receiver as a former quarterback can be.

Michigan has several talented receivers with a lot of experience. Junior Hemingway is the number one guy and the main deep threat. He has become Michigan’s best jump-ball receiver since Braylon Edwards. His size allows him to outmuscle the defensive back and go up and get the ball. Sophomore Jeremy Gallon has emerged as Michigan’s second receiver and actually leads the Wolverines in receptions with 17. He has shown speed on the edge and an ability to turn a quick screen into yards. Roy Roundtree, last year’s leading receiver (and second-leading receiver in the Big Ten) has been quiet so far in his move to the outside, but is talented enough to demand respect from the defense.

Edge: Even

Offensive Line:

As was discussed above, Michigan State’s offensive line has underwhelmed thus far. With a trio of good running backs, the line has only paved the way for 128.8 rushing yards per game (79th nationally). It mustered just 71 yards on 31 attempts two weeks ago against Ohio State and 29 (!) yards on 23 attempts in a 31-13 loss to Notre Dame. The line is solid in pass protection, allowing a sack per game, but redshirt freshman center Travis Jackson will have his hands full tomorrow with Mike Martin.

Michigan’s line has been an asset all season, helping lead the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack and allowing just two sacks through six games. Center David Molk is the leader of the unit and a mid-season All-American according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is a beast and the rest of the guys have been solid. The unit has allowed just two sacks all season, bu the big test comes tomorrow.

Edge: Michigan

Defensive Line:

Worthy breaks through the line and sacks Braxton Miller before he can even hand it off

This is probably Michigan State’s biggest strength. The group is led by an NFL-caliber nose tackle in Jerel Worthy who practically lives in the backfield, as you can see in the photo. He’s impossible to single block and likes to jump the snap. How Molk handles Worthy will probably make a difference between good Denard and bad Denard.

The other star of the defensive line is sophomore end William Gholston. He’s always in the backfield as well and has the speed to chase down the running from behind on the backside, as he did a couple times against Ohio State.

Michigan’s defensive line is good too, led by senior Mike Martin. Ryan Van Bergen has blossomed into a good pass rusher and Craig Roh is improving weekly after a slow start. This may be the key matchup of the game – whether or not Michigan’s line can get consistent pressure on Cousins. If not, he’ll pick the defense apart.

Edge: Michigan State


Sophomores Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are very good linebackers, reminiscent of classic Ohio State linebackers, which makes sense given that MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio came from OSU. Allen leads the team in sacks (three) and tackles-for-loss (7.5). Bullough got a sack against Ohio State (but then again who didn’t?) and leads the team in tackles with 33.

Michigan’s linebackers have held up surprisingly well, much better than the past few years. It’s not a good unit by any means, but it’s slowly improving. Freshman Jake Ryan is going to be a great player at Michigan in the coming years but right now, he and Kenny Demens struggle to contain on the outside. Northwestern killed them in the first half before Mattison backed them up a step and put Ryan over the slot.

Edge: Michigan State


The Spartans are led by a pair of good safeties in Isaiah Lewis and Trenton Robinson. Robinson was Second-team All-Big Ten a year ago, while Lewis, a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection last season, has two picks. Sophomore defensive back Darquezze Dennard had his first career interception against Ohio State. The safeties like to creep up to the line of scrimmage and move around a lot before the snap. It’s safe to say one will be pulled up until Michigan proves it can beat them deep.

Michigan’s secondary is at least consistent this season. Freshman Blake Countess has emerged as a playmaker and is getting serious playing time in place of banged up Troy Woolfolk. The safeties Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs are the stars of the secondary. Kovacs leads the team in sacks with three, none more important than the fourth-down sack of Persa last week (regardless of whether it was a facemask or not).

Edge: Even

Special Teams:

Michigan State’s one weakness might be its special teams. Punter Mike Sadler has booted 18 punts for an average of 40.1, but the net is just 33.68, which is 110th nationally. Kicker Dan Conroy has been around forever and is 6-of-9 this season with a long of 50. Redshirt freshman running back Nick Hill is the main kick returner, averaging 26.9 yards per return, while Keshawn Martin is a dangerous punt returner capable of breaking one.

That's right Dantonio. I'm coming to take back my cookies! (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

For Michigan, Will Hagerup has punted just three times since his return from suspension, averaging 37.7 per punt. Kicker Brendan Gibbons is 4-of-6, having had last week’s only attempt blocked. Gallon does a good job with punt returns, averaging 10.7 yards per, which is 23rd nationally.

Edge: Even


Mark Dantonio is a Jim Tressel disciple. Since coming to East Lansing in 2007, he has turned the program around and instilled a toughness and focus on beating Michigan. He has succeeded with that in three of four meetings. He’s a defensive-minded coach, but always seems to prepare special offensive packages just for Michigan.

Brady Hoke has a chance to do something no Michigan coach has done since 1948: beat Michigan State in his first attempt. If he does so, he’ll have Michigan as the front-runner for the Big Ten Legends Division title. His coordinators, Al Borges and Greg Mattison, have been brilliant all season, especially in the second half. Whether you call it coaching or adjustments, the proof is in the pudding as Michigan has outscored its opponents 114-21 in the second half through six games (and 62-7 in the fourth quarter).

While I think Michigan has the better coaches overall, until they can prove they can clear the green and white mid-season hurdle, I can’t give them the edge.

Edge: Push


Michigan State has the momentum in the series, riding a three-game winning streak over Michigan. The game is in East Lansing and the Spartans will be wearing some ugly shiny South Florida new pro combat uniforms. The weather calls for a windy day which favors running games and Michigan’s running game is seventh in the nation. State’s is just 79th. In this rivalry, the team that won the running game has won 28 of the past 31 meetings. That favors Michigan.

Edge: Even

Spartan fans claim they’ve seen this story before for Michigan: Michigan starts fast, feasting on cupcakes, until State beat them and then it’s all downhill from there. The irony is that’s been the Spartans’ M.O. up until the past couple of seasons. But this isn’t the same team Michigan fielded the past three years. It has some of the same elements, but the offense is much more complex, the defense has actual coaching, and the head coach places a major emphasis on beating rivals. He’ll have the Wolverines focused.

I think it comes down to two factors: the offensive and defensive lines. Can Molk and company keep Worthy and Gholston from invading the backfield and pressuring Denard into back-foot throws? Conversely, can Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh get consistent pressure on Cousins? Michigan State likes to roll the pocket to hide the line’s protection weaknesses and throw a lot of short routes. Look for Mattison to change up the blitzes to try to force Cousins into some bad throws of which he is prone to make.

It’s important for Michigan to get off to a fast start to put pressure on MSU early, but either way, It’s going to come down to the end like most Michigan-Michigan State games do. I have no doubt Michigan will be able to move the ball pretty effectively by using a combination of quick screens and zone-read to neutralize the Spartan pass rush. If Michigan can finish off its drives like it has all season (with the exception of the first half last week) then it should be able to outscore MSU.

Prediction: Michigan 27 – Michigan State 23

Good to Know:

Michigan leads the all-time series 67-31-5 (34-22-2 since the Paul Bunyan trophy was introduced in 1953, and 30-11 since 1970)

Michigan has forced multiple turnovers in all six games this season and has a plus-six turnover margin, which is best in the Big Ten and 14th nationally. The 17 turnovers forced are just two short of last year’s season total

Michigan is 26-of-28 in the red zone so far this season, including touchdowns on 22 (79 percent) of those trips

Junior Hemingway is averaging 26.1 yards per reception, which ranks first in the Big Ten and second in the nation

After going scoreless in the first quarter through the first three games, Michigan has scored touchdowns on its first possession of the game in each of the last three games

Michigan has committed just 24 penalties so far (average of four per game), which ranks first in the Big Ten and tied for eighth nationally

Record Watch:
With one passing touchdown, Denard Robinson will tie Jim Harbaugh (1983-86) for 9th on Michigan’s career list. With three, he will tie Brian Griese (1994-97) for 8th

With 38 rushing yards, Denard will pass Tim Biakabatuka (1993-95) for 10th on Michigan’s career rushing list. He can reach 9th and pass Gordon Bell (1973-75) with 128

With one rushing touchdown, Denard will move into a tie with Gordon Bell (1973-75) for 10th in career rushing touchdowns. With two, he will reach Butch Woolfolk (1978-81). And with three, he will tie Tom Harmon (1938-40) and Billy Taylor (1969-71) for 7th

With 109 receiving yards, Junior Hemingway could move into the top 20 in career receiving yards, passing Ralph Clayton (1976-79), John Kolesar (1985-88), and Adrian Arrington (2004-07)

Game 6 Preview: Northwestern

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Michigan and Northwestern are seemingly going in different directions. While Michigan is still undefeated and has allowed just 10 points total in its last three games, Northwestern has dropped two straight and has given up a massive amount of yards on one side of the ball in each. Against Army, Northwestern allowed 395 yards rushing and in last week’s loss to Illinois, the Illini threw for 391 yards.

#12 Michigan v. Northwestern
Saturday Oct. 8
8 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
5-0 Record 2-2
Western Michigan 34-10
Notre Dame 35-31
Eastern Michigan 31-3
San Diego State 28-7
Minnesota 58-0
Wins Eastern Illinois 42-21
Boston College 24-17
Losses Army 14-21
Illinois 35-38
37.2 Scoring Offense 28.8
272.6 Rushing YPG 207.8
168.2 Passing YPG 167.0
440.8 Total Offense 374.8
10.2 Scoring Defense 24.2
139.4 Rush Defense YPG 174.8
176.8 Pass Defense YPG 239.2
316.2 Total Defense YPG 414.0
15 Takeaways 7
8 Giveaways 2
7/2 Sacks By/Allowed 10/10
25-of-51 (49%) Third-down Conv. 22-of-53 (42%)
4-for-5 (80%) Field Goals 1-for-3 (66.7%)
36.7 Net Punt Avg. 34.5

Those stats alone are enough to leave Michigan fans salivating for another Minnesota-esque blowout, but as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Northwestern is not a bad team. It nearly upset Illinois last week and lead 28-10 at one point in the third quarter. It was actually a fairly similar game to Michigan’s win over Notre Dame. Illinois scored with 13 seconds remaining to get the win.

This is also Michigan’s first road game after five straight in the Big House to open the season. Michigan traditionally struggles in its first road game so it will be interesting to see how the Wolverines deal with the adversity.


Northwestern has an experienced quarterback in Dan Persa, however, he has been hampered by injuries. He ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in last season’s upset of Iowa but was still named First-team All-Big Ten. His injury caused him to miss this season’s first three games.

Persa returned to action last week and went 10-of-14 for 123 yards and four touchdowns, but he left the game with some tenderness in that foot. He insists he’ll be ready to go tomorrow, but will he be full strength?

A big part of his effectiveness is his running ability. While he’s no Denard Robinson in that aspect, he carried the ball 164 times for 519 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Robinson had his best game of the season last week as the gameplan allowed him to get into a rhythm early with short passes. He threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another in leading the blowout. He raised his completion percentage for the season to 55 percent and gave Michigan fans (and of course opposing teams) a sneak peak at the new diamond formation with Devin Gardner at quarterback and Denard split left.

Denard ranks fourth in the nation in rushing, 16th in total offense, and fifth in points responsible for. In the first few games, he carried the ball about as much as he did last season, but didn’t need to last week. He’s healthy and it remains to be seen whether or not Persa can say the same.

Edge: Michigan

Running Backs:

Northwestern’s leading rusher so far this season is actually backup quarterback Kain Colter, who started the first three games. He has 54 carries for 266 yards and four touchdowns. The leading running back is sophomore Mike Trumpy, but he tore his ACL last week and is out the rest of the season. That leaves freshman Treyvon Green who has just 33 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown.

Adonis Smith (29 for 107) and Jacob Schmidt (27 for 106) are the only other backs who have more than 100 yards.

Michigan has the tandem of Fitz Toussaint and Vincent Smith who just keep getting better. Smith had a record day last Saturday, rushing for a touchdown, catching a touchdown pass, and throwing a touchdown to Drew Dileo. He had a breakout game against Eastern Michigan in Week 3 when he rushed for 118 yards on nine carries.

Toussaint is the pound and ground back with the most carries on the team (aside from Denard). He has 46 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns thus far. That’s an average of 6.5 yards per carry.

Last year's First-team All-Big Ten quarterback, Dan Persa, returned from a ruptured Achilles' last week to give the Illini offense a boost

As a team, Michigan is the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack. Northwestern’s rush defense ranks 89th and gave up 395 yards on the ground to Army two weeks ago.

Edge: Michigan

Receivers and Tight Ends:

Northwestern probably has the best receiver in this game in Jeremy Ebert. Last season’s leading receiver in the Big Ten has just 15 receptions for 238 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. All five touchdowns have come in the last two games. No other Wildcat has more than 100 receiving yards. The next closest is Drake Dunsmore, who has nine catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

It’s safe to say Northwestern’s passing game isn’t its strength. It ranks 105th nationally in yards per game.

Michigan hasn’t thrown a whole lot this season. After putting the ball in the air 24 times in the comeback win over Notre Dame, Robinson hasn’t thrown more than 19 passes in a game since. That’s the way Hoke wants it with a good running game. Even so, and I say this every week, Robinson has plenty of weapons to throw to. Junior Hemingway is the leader with 10 receptions for 267 yards and a touchdown, while Jeromy Gallon has 12 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown.

Edge: Michigan

Offensive Line:

Northwestern’s rush offense ranks 24th in the nation, but the offensive line has given up 10 sacks through four games, which ranks 89th. It’s a veteran unit that has four starters returning from last season. The newcomer is redshirt freshman center Brandon Vitabile.

Michigan’s line has been solid all season. Center David Molk is the leader, while sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan keeps emerging into Michigan’s next great lineman. The group has paved the way for the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack and allowed just two sacks.

Edge: Michigan

Defensive Line:

Defensive end Vince Browne is the leader of Northwestern’s line. The senior has 18 career sacks including two so far this season. He was a Second-team All-Big Ten performer last season.

Michigan’s line has continued to get stronger against the run and getting to the quarterback. Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and Craig Roh were beasts against Minnesota, helping to hold the Gophers to just 73 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

Edge: Michigan


The linebackers are good tacklers and like to blitz a lot. Senior Bryce McNaul leads the Wildcats in tackles, averaging just under eight per game. Junior David Nwabuisi is close behind and also has a sack.

Michigan’s linebackers have solidified into a group of Kenny Demens, Brandon Hawthorne, and Jake Ryan. Ryan is one of Michigan’s best pass rushers even as a true freshman. All played well last week and continue to get better.

Edge: Even


Northwestern’s secondary has been suspect so far this season. It’s allowing 239 yards per game through the air and got torched by Illinois to the tune of 391 yards last week. It ranks 81st nationally. The leader is probably senior Brian Peters who averages seven tackles a game and has recorded a sack. He also recorded an interception last week against Illinois. Senior Jordan Maybin has been around for a while and has seven career interceptions.

Freshman Blake Countess has emerged as Michigan's third cornerback

For Michigan, Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd are the starters at cornerback and freshman Blake Countess has seemingly wrapped up the third CB spot. Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs have been strong at the safety spots and with the exception of the Notre Dame game, have turned the Michigan secondary into a strength, only allowing 175 yards per game. That ranks 14th nationally.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams:

Jeff Budzien is in his first year as Northwestern’s kicker. He has connected on just 1-of-3 field goals so far. He made his first of the season, but has missed his last two. The Wildcats’ punter is sophomore Brandon Williams. He has a net average of 37.7 yards, which ranks 76th in the nation. In the return game, Northwestern ranks eighth in the nation, averaging 17 yards per return.

Michigan kicker Brandon Gibbons has suddenly turned into Mr. Reliable after a dismal season a year ago. Gibbons connected on all three attempts last week with a long of 38 yards. He’s 4-of-5 on the season. Punter Will Hagerup returned last week from a four game suspension and booted two punts for an average of 37.5 yards.

Edge: Michigan


Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald is in his sixth season at the helm. He has adapted an offensive system similar to Rich Rodriguez’s and a hard-nosed defense. He has guided the Wildcats to a school-best three straight bowl games.

Brady Hoke has been at Michigan for five games and has already achieved Michigan’s highest ranking since the 2007 preseason poll. Lloyd Carr was still the coach the, so draw your own conclusions, but Hoke has yet to lose as Michigan’s ring leader.

Edge: Michigan


Michigan is on the road for the first time this season and Hoke isn’t taking it lightly.

“I’m interested to see how we react and what we’re made of, our mentality, our mental toughness,” Hoke said. “And if we’re business like.”

If there’s a good place to play your first road game, Northwestern is as good as any given the vast amount of Michigan alums in the Chicago area. Typically, the Ryan Field crowd is split pretty evenly when Michigan comes to town and this time will be no different. It’s a night game and Michigan has already experienced one this season so the atmosphere won’t be a problem.

Michigan isn’t a young and inexperienced team anymore either. Robinson is a second-year starter and the rest of the offense is well-seasoned. Going on the road won’t be too much of a hindrance.

Edge: Michigan

On paper, this seems like a trap game for Michigan. Fresh off a 58-0 pummeling of Minnesota and a week ahead of a big showdown with rival Michigan State, Michigan can’t afford to overlook Northwestern. The good thing is Brady Hoke won’t let them. He has been as good as any coach in the country so far at dealing with emotions and game management.

While Northwestern has Persa back, it remains to be seen how healthy he actually is and whether he can play to his full potential. The loss of Trumpy will hurt to Wildcat running game and Michigan should be able to stack the box forcing Persa to beat it through the air.

The Wildcat defense has given up a lot of yards the past two weeks and Michigan will be able to exploit it just like Illinois did a week ago. Northwestern will likely try to shut down Michigan’s running game and force Robinson to beat it with his arm, so look for a big passing day for Robinson. I don’t think this one will be as close as most people think.

Prediction: Michigan 38 – Northwestern 17

Good to Know:

Michigan leads the all-time series with Northwestern 52-15-2, including 27 of the last 31. However, Northwestern defeated Michigan 21-14 in the last meeting in 2008.

Michigan has forced at least two turnovers in every game this season and owns a plus-seven turnover margin, which ranks first in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation

Michigan has rushed for over 300 yards in three straight games for just the fourth time in Michigan history, and the first time since 1976.

Michigan has committed just 19 penalties for 153 yards so far this season. That is the best in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation.

Record Watch:

Denard Robinson will pass Rich Leach (1975-78) for ninth on the career completions list with five completions tomorrow.

With four touchdown passes, Denard will pass Jim Harbaugh (1983-86) for ninth on the career passing touchdown list.

With 96 rushing yards, Denard will pass Lawrence Ricks (1979-82) for 11th on the career rushing list. He can also pass Tim Biakabatuka (1993-95) for 10th with 155 yards.

With one more rushing touchdown, Denard will move into a four-way tie for 11th with Ron Johnson (1966-68), Ed Shuttlesworth (1971-73), and Rob Lytle (1973-76). With three rushing touchdowns he can tie Gordon Bell (1973-75) for 10th.

With 15 total yards, Denard will pass Elvis Grbac (1989-92) for fifth on the career total offense list. He will also pass Rick Leach (1975-78) for fourth with 254 yards and Steve Smith (1980-83) for third with 348.

FORECAST FRIDAY: Gator Bowl, Michigan vs. Mississippi State

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Bowl season used to be one day to look forward to while ringing in the new year with friends, family, and if you’re fortunate, watching your favorite team play an opponent it doesn’t typically play in a warm and sunny spot you wish you were in. These days, we don’t even get a break in between the last game of the regular season and a watered down slate of games you really don’t care to watch but watch anyway because your only other viewing options are Glee or reruns of House.

Michigan vs. #21 Mississippi State
Block M logo

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 – 1:30 p.m. ET – ESPN2
7-5 Record 8-4
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Illinois 67-65 (3OT)
Purdue 27-16
Wins Memphis 49-7
Georgia 24-12
Alcorn State 49-16
Houston 47-24
#22 Florida 10-7
UAB 29-24
Kentucky 24-17
Mississippi 31-23
#17 Mich. St. 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Penn State 31-41
#7 Wisconsin 28-48
#8 Ohio State 7-37
Losses #21 Auburn 14-17
#15 LSU 7-29
#12 Alabama 10-30
#13 Arkansas 31-38 2OT
34.3 Scoring Offense 27.1
251.1 Rushing YPG 215.8
249.8 Passing YPG 178.6
500.9 Total Offense 394.3
33.8 Scoring Defense 20.3
187.7 Rush Defense YPG 121.7
260.2 Pass Defense YPG 236.4
447.9 Total Defense YPG 358.1
18 Takeaways 26
27 Giveaways 20
17 Sacks By 26
11 Sacks Allowed 22
75/162 (46%) Third-down Conv. 81/179 (45%)
4/13 Field Goals 12/18
36.7 Net Punt Avg. 38.2

And so it is that we’ve finally arrived at that one day of the year where college football takes precedence over everything else and we Michigan fans get to watch a game we’ve been looking forward to since that brutal game on November 27.

Tomorrow’s matchup with No. 21 Mississippi State takes on added significance after Michigan’s two-year absence from post-season play and the fate of Head Coach Rich Rodriguez hanging in the balance.

Michigan always plays well against SEC teams (20-5-1 all-time and 7-3 in bowl games), but as we’ve learned the past three seasons, this isn’t the Michigan of old anymore.

That could spell doom for Rodriguez, but I don’t think the outcome of Saturday’s game will factor into his fate, and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the coaching situation.

Perhaps the most important factor for Michigan is the health of Denard Robinson who, by all accounts, is as healthy as he has been all season. He struggled late in the season when he was banged up and didn’t seem to have the same burst he displayed early in the season. But Saturday he’ll be healthy and playing in the warm and sunny weather of his home state of Florida.

Mississippi State is an interesting study. It’s a team that hung tough with Auburn and Arkansas, but didn’t really beat anybody good all season and barely survived 4-8 UAB. In other words, its season is reminiscent of Michigan’s.

The strength of the Bulldogs is the defense, led by linebacker Chris White, an all-SEC first team defender who gets the task of trying to slow down Robinson.

In week two, White and the Bulldog defense held Heisman winner Cam Newton to his worst performance of the season. Auburn won 17-14, but Newton completed just 11-of-19 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 70 yards (3.9 yards per carry).

Head Coach Dan Mullen hopes to replicate that performance against Michigan on Saturday, but what give me hope is that performance was a long time ago. In the last five games, MSU’s defense gave up an average of 26.4 points per game. That’s good news for Michigan since the Bulldog offense doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboards, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally in points scored.

Offensively, the Bulldogs’ best player is tackle Derek Sherrod, a second-team All-American who figures to be a first round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has helped pave the way for the nation’s 16th-best rush offense, but his line has also allowed 22 sacks. An interesting matchup to watch will be Michigan’s defensive line against Sherrod and company. Can Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Craig Roh pressure quarterback Chris Relf or get into the backfield to disrupt the run game? If so, it will help Michigan’s young and oft-maligned secondary.

Mississippi State’s pass offense is it’s weakness, ranking 91st in the nation with just 178.6 yards per game. Much of that has to do with the strength of its running game, but Relf ranks 52nd nationally in pass efficiency, just behind Indiana’s Ben Chappell.

Expect the Bulldogs to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep Michigan’s offense off the field, much like Wisconsin did, except out of a spread similar to Illinois’ (and Michigan’s for that matter). That could play into Michigan’s hands since the defense goes up against a similar style offense in practice every day.

Robinson warms up during practice in Jacksonville

According to Rodriguez, Michigan should get junior receiver Martavious Odoms back from a foot injury that has sidelined him since the Michigan State game. If he really is healthy enough to play at full speed, that will help Michigan both in the run and pass game. Odoms is the most experienced wideout on the team,with sure hands, and despite his small frame, is a great blocking receiver to set up Robinson’s runs.

Also healthy is Michigan’s best offensive lineman, center David Molk who missed time in the last few games with a foot injury. His presence will help combat White and MSU linemen Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd, and Fletcher Cox.

The strength of the Bulldog rush defense and weakness of its pass defense leads me to believe Michigan will look to pass a little more than usual. Rodriguez loves to run to open up the pass, but a couple shots downfield early on could open up the running lanes for Robinson and backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith and keep the safeties from creeping up. In the last five games, MSU gave up 257 yards per game through the air, which is almost exactly what Michigan’s secondary has allowed this season.

Three Predictions:

1. Denard has more rushing yards AND more passing yards than Cam Newton did against Mississippi State

2. Michigan’s defense turns in one of  its best performances of the season

3. Roy Roundtree eclipses 1,000 yards for the season

Overall, I think the game rests solely in the hands of Robinson. If the Robinson of the first half of the season shows up, Michigan will be in good shape. If the Robinson of the second half shows up, it will be a long day. The absence of Tate Forcier, who was ruled academically ineligible yesterday makes the health of Robinson of utmost importance. Freshman Devin Gardner, who was the first QB off the bench in the season opener against UConn, would be the backup, but it would mean burning his medical redshirt that Rodriguez hopes will keep him two years behind Robinson and Forcier.

As long as Robinson doesn’t get banged up, I think Michigan will be able to score around 30 points, which should be enough to beat the Bulldogs. And then the real waiting begins.

Michigan 31 – Mississippi State 27

GIVING THANKS: What I’m thankful for this season, poem style

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

One week in mid-November makes us obsess a little bit more than all the others: Ohio State week, or Buckeye week, or Hate week. Whatever you want to call it, we spend more time during the week longing for Saturday to come, more time ragging on our family, friends, and coworkers who have the unfortunate quality of being Ohio State fans, and more time telling “a Michigan fan and Ohio State fan walked into a bar…” jokes.


So I’ll spend a little more time this week writing about all things Michigan and Ohio State related. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving making this a two-day work week! I’ll publish an article every day this week, the schedule as follows:


Monday: Wisconsin recap and Ohio State preview

Tuesday: What The Game means to me

Wednesday: Why Michigan has a chance on Saturday
(Note: I apologize for not getting this up today. Our drive from New York to Tennessee for Thanskgiving  took a lot longer than expected and I haven’t yet mastered typing while driving. I’ll try to get it up either today or Friday, but the rest is still on schedule)

Thursday: What I’m thankful for this season

Friday: Michigan-Ohio State game preview


A Thanksgiving poem of all of the reasons
I’m thankful for Michigan this Twenty-ten season.

For a refurbished Big House with club seats
back to the biggest including new suites.

For keeping The Game at season’s end
when next year Nebraska joins the Big Ten.

For the NCAA ruling Rich didn’t lose control
as was claimed in allegations from those Free Press fools.

For a new AD coming from Dominos, 
a Michigan Man and disciple of Bo.

For Brock Mealer walking against all odds,
beating one percent and giving glory to God.

For Denard against UConn and his long flowing dreads,
his human Heisman pose turning all of our heads.

For 200-yard rushing and passing games
and making Shoelace a household name.

For Tate not quitting through adversity
and remaining loyal to our university.

For coming in and leading touchdown drives
and cheering on Denard and giving high fives.

For Vincent returning from an ACL tear
to be our best back with his dreadlocked hair.

For Junior finally playing an entire year
without getting injured like we all feared.

For his Braylon-like grabs and catch-and-runs
and making the Illinois game really fun.

For Roy and his impressions of Donald Duck
and proving our passing game does not suck.

For Stonum wearing his press conference glasses
and teaming up with Denard to catch lots of passes.

For 65 against the Bowling Green boys
and topping that score against Illinois.

For becoming bowl-eligible once again
and those who have stayed are true Michigan Men.

For another comeback against Notre Dame,
and Weis or Kelly…it’s all the same.

For Devin getting his feet wet for a few plays
and a QB position that’s stocked if he stays.

For David Molk anchoring the offensive line
and fighting through injuries all the time.

For Lewan looking like a young Jake Long
and for The Victors, the greatest fight song.

For Mike Martin, the incredible hulk
clogging the middle like spackle and caulk.

For youth on defense getting experience this year
to help bring us back to a defense that’s feared.

For Woolfolk’s ankle that’s healing so he can come back
next year to put our defense back on track.

For seven wins, which is more than our losses
and all of our offense’s long touchdown tosses.

So on this Thanksgiving while we eat lots of food,
let’s give thanks to our boys in the Maize and Blue.

And will them to win over Ohio State,
the team that we’re all thankful to hate.

BREAKING RECORDS: Denard tops all-time as UM rolled by Wisc.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Eleven games into the season, I’ve either gotten this Michigan team figured out or I’ve become so desensitized to losses that it’s what I’ve come to expect against teams not from the Mid-American Conference or the state of Indiana.

Montee Ball runs away from Michigan defenders (photo by the Detroit News)

All three of my predictions came true on Saturday, and while they weren’t too far out on a limb, they were right on, and save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin, the final score would have been exactly right too.

I don’t want to be right on those predictions, so it’s not exactly something I’m proud about. I’d much rather be completely wrong and Michigan win, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.

While defensive progress appeared to have been made last week in a 27-16 win over Purdue, window dressing is all it really was. Purdue was essentially playing with its second-team offense and the game was played in poor weather conditions, making good offense the exception rather than the norm.

So when Wisconsin came to town with its steamroller offense, everybody knew what the Badgers’ offensive strategy would be: run, run, run, and sprinkle in a pass here and there. Quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 14-of-15 passes for 201 yards, all of one of those passes coming in the first half when Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 lead.

From there on, Wisconsin ran the ball on 33 out of 34 plays in the second half, and Michigan was helpless to stop it as the Badgers rolled up 357 rushing yards.

The loss dropped Michigan to 7-4 on the season, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and set up a chance to play spoiler, and salvage the season, this Saturday in Columbus. I won’t go as far as to say this is the most important game in Rich Rodriguez’s three-year tenure at Michigan, since I think he’s returning next season no matter the outcome, but if Michigan wins it would certainly be his biggest win during that time.

Ohio State sits in a three-way tie for first with Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18 on Oct. 17, and Ohio State doesn’t play Michigan State this season, so if Ohio State beats Michigan, it will claim a share of the Big Ten title and likely receive a BCS bowl game since it’s ranked higher than Michigan State in the BCS standings.

A Michigan win would keep Ohio State from reaching its sixth straight Big Ten title and a sixth straight BCS bowl. It would also give Rodriguez his first win over a ranked team since 2008 when Michigan beat No. 9 Wisconsin. That Wisconsin team was vastly overrated at the time and finished the season with a 7-6 record, so beating Ohio State on Saturday would easily top that one.

But most importantly, it would end Michigan’s six game losing streak to the Buckeyes, the longest in the rivalry since the 1920s. After dominating the 90s, Michigan has seemingly forgotten how to beat Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over. Ohio state fans love to point out that it has been two thousand and something days since Michigan has beaten Ohio State. Beat Ohio State on Saturday and Rodriguez will regain much of the Michigan fan base heading into the bowl game.

Ohio State is by far the better team this season and will be heavily favored, but just ask the 1993, ’95, and ’96 Buckeye teams if the better team always wins. The beauty of the rivalry is that you can throw out the records. Let Buckeye week begin!


Robinson broke the FBS single-season rushing record by a quarterback (AP photo)

Hats off to Denard Robinson for breaking Beau Morgan’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. His 121 rushing yards against Wisconsin also made him the first 1,500 yard rusher and passer in NCAA history, not to mention the first player to have 1,500 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a single season.

The sophomore in his first season as a starter has been electrifying for Michigan this season and gives the Wolverines a lot of hope for the next two years.

He’s now 403 yards short of the all-college football quarterback rushing record, which was set by Chris Sharpe of Div. III’s Springfield (Mass.) College. He would have to average 202 yards per game to break that record, which is a tall task considering Ohio State’s rush defense which ranks third in the nation.

Injuries are hitting Michigan hard in the last few games of the season. Already having lost starting receiver Martavious Odoms and cornerback J.T. Floyd, and nose tackle Mike Martin and center David Molk having missed all or parts of the past few games, Michigan suffered another blow on Saturday. Receiver Darryl Stonum was inured returning a kick late in the game and running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Craig Roh each suffered what appeared to be concussions.

Stonum ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 493. He also has four touchdowns. Smith is the leading running back 571 yards and five touchdowns. Roh has been more effective as a defensive end since moving there from linebacker.

All three of those guys will be needed this Saturday if Michigan has any shot to win. Hopefully Stonum is healthy enough to keep returning kicks, because at this point, he’s light years better than Jeremy Gallon, who has been Michigan’s returner most of the season.

After the game, Stonum tweeted, “hopefully I’m ok (I think I am) but its gonna take a whole lot to keep me out of this next game.”

Roy Roundtree’s 114 yards against Wisconsin put him within striking distance of becoming Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007. For the season, he has 839 yards, just 37 behind Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert for the Big Ten lead. With two games remaining, at Ohio State on Saturday and a bowl game, Roundtree needs to average 80.5 receiving yards to eclipse 1,000.

He would join the ranks of Manningham, Jason Avant (2005), Braylon Edwards (2002, ’03, ’04), Marquis Walker (2001), and David Terrell (2000) as the only Michigan receivers to reach 1,000 yards since 2000.

[Ed.: The below chart will live on the Wolverine Watch page for the rest of the season]

Roy Roundtree vs. Jeremy Ebert
11 Games Played 11
7-4 Win-Loss 7-4
58 Receptions 56
839 Receiving Yds
6 TDs 8
75 Long
14.5 Avg./Catch 15.6
76.3 Avg./Game 79.6
5.27 Rec/Game 5.18