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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Van Bergen’

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.

Michigan Gets it Right With Retro Jerseys

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Tonight’s unveiling of Michigan’s retro jersey for the Under the Lights Game against Notre Dame on Sept. 10 should excite the Michiagn fanbase as we move on from the past three seasons and into what is shaping up to be an exciting season.

Previously released renderings of the jerseys, even from earlier today, were met with a great deal of angst and disparagement from much of the maize and blue faithful, but the final versions modeled by Denard Robinson and Ryan Van Bergen at tonight’s ceremony should be celebrated.

The uniforms that Michigan unveiled live on are certainly differant than Michigan’s traditional solid blue top, but by no means should that be a bad thing.

Michigan’s uniforms are defined by tradition. Similar to Penn State and perhaps Texas, simplicity has made them one of the most iconic in college football.

Other schools that don’t have the history and tradition of the nation’s winningest program, such as Oregon or TCU have gone the gimmicky route full time, even changing styles and designs every few seasons. The addition of Nike’s Pro Combat took it a step further, eschewing tradition for snazzy, money-making get-ups like Florida’s, Arizona State’s, and a bunch of others.

While those uniform designs likely appeal to younger fans, Michigan’s night game duds should encompass the whole spectrum of Michigan fans by tying in the entire history of the Michigan uniform.

“Michigan’s maize and blue jersey is one of the most iconic in all of sports and this new vintage-inspired uniform highlights design cues from throughout Michigan’s rich football tradition honoring 132 years of championship football,” said Jon Yuska, Adidas’ director of sports licensing design.

Because of the lack of significant uniform changes over the course of the 132-year history of Michigan football, especially in the modern era, there weren’t many options to choose from when designing throwbacks to commemorate the game. Aside from changing from Adidas to whoever made the jerseys back in the day, and some minor number or font tweaks, actual throwbacks would look basically the same as what Michigan always wears on Saturdays.

Michigan's 1895 team uniforms

Since creating a true throwback was not really an option, Michigan AD Dave Brandon and the Adidas design team chose to take elements and concepts from the past 132 years and develop a unique uniform that personifies the program’s rich history.

From Michigan’s first captain, David N. DeTar, in 1879, to Bennie Oosterbaan in the 20s to Gerald Ford and Tom Harmon in the 30s, all the way to the stars of the modern era who never got to play under the lights in Ann Arbor, these uniforms represent 132 years of Michigan football.

September 10 deserves to be celebrated, not just for the 85 who get to suit up that day, but for the thousands whose combined efforts have made Michigan football the nation’s best. Tweaking the uniforms ever so slightly to honor one team from the 40s is great, but if that’s to be done, there will be a time and a place for that. This game is about more than one team or one era since it’s carving history out of what is already the sport’s most historic program.

These retro uniforms involve elements from the very beginnings of Michigan football in the late 1800s that wore the block M on the front as well as the striping on the sleeves (if you don’t like that, at least it’s not the full uniform like the Where’s Waldo uniforms some players wore in 1888). It also features the number on the sides of the winged helmets, as Michigan wore in the 1950s and 60s, as well as grey facemasks. Aside from those elements, Michigan’s uniforms really haven’t changed in the modern era.

I commend Brandon and the Adidas design team for integrating several elements of Michigan’s uniform history to create a compelling uniform for this historical occasion. It’s not something I would buy to wear, but I’d probably buy one to hang in a Michigan-themed man cave.

Most importantly, the team seems to love them and they’re only for one game,  so we don’t have to worry about Michigan’s history being thrown out the window. There’s nothing wrong with a little marketing gimick now and then, especially when it gets everybody talking about Michigan football again in a positive light while we watch that school in Ohio’s world crumble more and more each day.

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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

Forecast Friday: Paul Bunyan’s Baby-Sitting of Little Brother to End

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Five games into the season, Michigan brings an unblemished record into its first true test of the year. In-state rival, Michigan State, is coming off a big upset win over then-No. 11 Wisconsin. The two meet tomorrow in Michigan Stadium with a lot on the line.

Michigan is looking to bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor from its two-year vacation in East Lansing and give Rich Rodriguez his first win over Michigan’s two chief rivals, MSU and Ohio State.

Michigan vs. Michigan State
Block M logo Sat. 10/9
3:30 p.m. ET
MSU logo
5-0 Record 5-0
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins W. Michigan 38-14
Florida Atlantic 30-17
Notre Dame 34-31 OT
N. Colorado 45-7
#11 Wisconsin 34-24
41.4 Scoring Offense 36.2
324.4 Rushing YPG 220.2
240.6 Passing YPG 240.4
565.0 Total Offense 460.6
25.4 Scoring Defense 18.6
125.8 Rush Defense YPG 101.2
307.8 Pass Defense YPG 227.4
433.6 Total Defense YPG 328.6
9 Takeaways 11
5 Giveaways 9
7/1 Sacks By/Allowed 5/11
33/61 (54%) Third-down Conv. 23/62 (37%)
1/5 Field Goals 7/7
34.0 Net Punt Avg. 38.0

Michigan State hopes to earn a third straight win over its big brother and take another crucial step towards a Big Ten championship. It doesn’t play Ohio State, so the only major test remaining would be at No. 15 Iowa on Oct. 30.

Something has to give and analysts and fans alike will be looking to see if Denard Robinson can keep up his torrid start to the season. After racking up 1,913 yards in the first five games (more than 34 entire FBS teams), the only knock anyone can come up with so far has been that he hasn’t done it against a good defense. Saturday, he gets his first chance.

Michigan State enters with the nation’s 20th-ranked run defense, giving up just 101 yards per game. However, just like one can say that Robinson isn’t the real thing until he faces a good defense, the same argument could be made that Michigan State’s defense hasn’t yet faced Robinson.

In last week’s 34-25 win over Wisconsin, the Badgers’ run game wasn’t exactly shut down, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, sacks not included. While John Clay was held under 100 yards for the first time this season (17 carries for 80 yards), freshman James White ran 10 times for 98 yards (9.8 ypc) and two touchdowns.

Michigan gets Michael Shaw back from an injury that forced him to miss last week’s game and that could be big. Michigan State’s defense, led by linebacker Greg Jones, will be intent on keeping Robinson from beating them with his legs. Shaw, who has looked to be Michigan’s most dangerous back, could go off like White did last week.

The weakness of State’s defense is the secondary, which has given up an average of 227 yards per game and ranks 78th in the nation. Notre Dame shredded the Spartans through the air, racking up 369 yards and four touchdowns. By comparison, Michigan’s pass defense, which ranks dead last in the FBS, gave up 381 yards passing to Notre Dame, 95 of which came on one play.

If State’s defense focuses on forcing Robinson to beat it through the air, Michigan’s talented receiving corps will go wild. It seems as if a different Wolverine receiver has stepped up in each game, and all are competent enough to keep defenses from crowding the line.

Against Notre Dame, Martavious Odoms caught seven passes for 91 yards and Roy Roundtree caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The next week, against UMass, it was Darryl Stonum who stepped up, catching three passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Against Bowling Green, Roundtree caught nine passes for 118 yards. Last week, against Indiana, Roundtree again had a big game with five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Junior Hemingway broke out with three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.

With that many guys to cover, it may be tough for a shaky secondary to handle. Robinson will focus on the slants and screens that have been his go-to plays when he’s not blazing into the end zone himself, but if he’s throwing accurate deep balls, which he has this season, but not last week, expect some big plays.

Defensively, Michigan will give up some points. I should just copy and paste that phrase into each post since it seems to be the theme of the season. Opponents have averaged 25.2 points per game so far and Indiana racked up nearly 500 yards passing last week.

Fortunately, Michigan State’s passing game, led by junior Kirk Cousins, isn’t quite as dangerous as Indiana’s. That’s not to say he won’t rack up some yards though. Cousins has been efficient so far this season, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions.

Last week against Wisconsin, Cousins completed 20-of-29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He was also picked off twice.

The running game is a good one with the two-headed monster of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. Each is averaging over seven yards per carry this season, and the two have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns.

Shaw and Robinson face the nation's 20th-ranked run defense (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Shaw, who returns from injury, and Robinson face the nation's 20th-ranked run defense tomorrow (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

One thing that stands out to me is the 11 sacks that the Spartans have given up. That’s just over two per game. Michigan’s defense has only recorded seven sacks so far, but the strength of the defense is the line of Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Greg Banks. Five of those seven sacks have come in the past two weeks and with State expected to try to take advantage of Michigan’s weak secondary, look for the line to get some pressure on Cousins.

Three predictions

1. Michael Shaw runs for near 100 yards and scores two touchdowns

2. Denard Robinson passes for over 250 yards

3. Michigan’s defense gets four combined sacks and turnovers

    Overall, I see this game as being very similar to both the Notre Dame and Indiana games. High-scoring, back-and-forth, not much defense. State’s defense may slow down Robinson stat-wise this week, but Michigan’s other playmakers will step up and the offense will keep rolling. The defense only needs a couple of stops in this one to get the offense ahead.

    Michigan wins at home 37-33.

    From Their View…

    The State News declares Michigan’s dominance over, while overlooking the fact that the past two years have given State a whopping 30 wins over Michigan in the rivalry. Oh yeah, Michigan has won 67 times. As if you needed any more evidence that State isn’t exactly Harvard (or Michigan), apparently the math goes like this: 30 > 67.

    Forecast Friday: UM Looks to Springboard Into Big Ten Slate

    Friday, September 24th, 2010

    Michigan’s performance last Saturday in what many thought to be a cakewalk left much to be desired. After thumping UConn and outlasting Notre Dame on the road, Michigan eked out a win at home over FCS UMass. This week, 1-2 Bowling Green comes to town and Michigan hopes to show that the UMass performance was just an emotional letdown after two big wins, rather than an indication of things to come.

    Michigan vs. Bowling Green
    Block M logo Sat. 9/25
    12 p.m. ET
    BowlingGreen logo
    3-0 Record 1-2
    UConn 30-10
    Notre Dame 28-24
    UMass 42-37
    Wins Marshall 44-28
      Losses Troy 27-30
    Tulsa 20-33
    33.3 Scoring Offense 30.3
    286.3 Rushing YPG 83.3
    223.7 Passing YPG 258.3
    510 Total Offense 341.7
    23.7 Scoring Defense 30.3
    169.7 Rush Defense YPG 195.3
    269.3 Pass Defense YPG 270.3
    439.0 Total Defense YPG 465.7
    6 Takeaways 9
    2 Giveaways 7
    2/1 Sacks By/Allowed 4/11
    50% Third-down Conv. 43%
    1/5 Field Goals 3/6
    31.6 Net Punt Avg. 36.0

    Bowling Green comes in with road losses to Troy and Tulsa and a 44-28 win over Marshall – the same Marshall team that took No. 23 West Virginia to overtime two weeks ago.

    While, as we saw last week, and the past three years for that matter, no opponent can be overlooked, it’s hard to imagine Bowling Green having much of a chance given the strengths and weaknesses of each team.  

    On paper, the Falcons’ offense actually stacks up pretty well against Michigan’s weakness, the pass defense, averaging 258.3 yards passing per game, which ranks 29th in the nation. The good news for Michigan, however, is that quarterback Matt Schilz, who has thrown for 664 yards so far, is out with a shoulder injury, leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz, freshman Kellen Pagel, or true freshman Trent Hurley to take the snaps.

    Pankratz is just 10-21 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his brief career, while Hurley hasn’t played yet.

    The running game has averaged just 83.3 yards per game this season, led by senior Willie Geter, who is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and 81 yards per game so far, though he’s very active in the passing game as well.

    Defensively, the Falcons play right into the strengths of Michigan’s offense. Bowling Green ranks 111th in total defense, and 98th in rush defense, giving up 194 yards per game on the ground this season. Michigan’s offense, led by Denard Robinson, ranks sixth in the nation with 286.3 yards rushing per game.

    Last week I predicted that Michigan’s starters would play the first half, and maybe into the third quarter before giving way to the second team. That wasn’t the case, since the offense wasn’t able to find its rhythm until just before halftime and the defense couldn’t stop UMass in the second half.

    This week, however, I’m going to predict the exact same thing. The most important aspects of this week’s game, aside from getting a win, is establishing consistency and keeping the starters, most notably Robinson, healthy.

    Rich Rodriguez said after last week’s game that had safety Cam Gordon not fumbled his interception return, the backup quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner, would have gone in. Rodriguez wants to get them some game action to stay fresh in case Robinson gets injured in Big Ten play.

    With Schilz out, Bowling Green’s offense will struggle even against Michigan’s poor defense. Keep in mind that the Falcons’ offensive line is playing three new starters this year, and has given up an average of nearly four sacks per game this season. That bodes well for Michigan’s defensive line to get some pressure and force the inexperienced quarterbacks into quick throws.

    Look for Michigan to force four or five turnovers and at least for this week look like a solid defensive unit as it heads into conference play.

    What to watch for:

    Can running back Michael Shaw repeat last week’s breakout performance and cement his spot as Michigan’s go-to back? Last week, he carried the ball 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

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

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

    NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from

    NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from

    Can the defense pressure Bowling Green’s inexperienced quarterbacks? As mentioned above, Bowling Green has given up an average of 3.6 sacks per game this season, with three new offensive linemen from last season, and will be starting a quarterback who has thrown all of 21 passes in his collegiate career.

    Despite Michigan’s strong defensive line, getting to the quarterback has been a problem through the first three games. Michigan has recorded just two sacks, and only three teams, North Carolina (1), Hawaii (1), and New Mexico State (0) have made fewer.

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

    Will the backup quarterbacks get some playing time and give Robinson a rest? Michigan is averaging 33.3 points per game this season, while Bowling Green is giving up an average of 30.3. Look for Michigan to run early and often against a poor rush defense and rack up nearly its average in the first half.

    Perhaps the biggest question is which quarterback will relieve Robinson first. When Robinson was momentarily injured against UConn and Notre Dame, it was Gardner, not last year’s starter, Forcier, who relieved him.

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

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

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


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

    Michigan 48 – Bowling Green 23

    From Their View…

    The Toledo Blade says Bowling Green draws some inspiration from Miley Cyrus, the Cleveland Plain Dealer seems to think Schilz’s injury won’t slow Bowling Green down, and FalconBlog answers 25 questions about Michigan.


    *I hate to make a joke about Forcier not starting or even being the backup this year, since he was incredibly clutch in some games last season and still could become a very good college quarterback. I think the way he handled himself in the opener against UConn was very immature and embarassing, but by all accounts he has become a great team player since then, so I’m glad that he has been able to move past that and put the team first. I’m glad we have him in case Robinson gets hurt and Gardner doesn’t perform. I hate to see him on the bench, but for Rich Rodriguez, it’s a good problem to have, and I won’t belabor the point any longer.

    Forecast Friday: Can Michigan Silence the Echoes in South Bend?

    Friday, September 10th, 2010

    Notre Dame week has become a tough one for me in the past few years. I grew up hating Notre Dame even more than Ohio State, cheering their every loss and hoping they never awoke the echoes. Then I met my wife. She’s a die-hard Notre Dame fan (and so is her entire family). UM-ND house divided

    At first, I tried to bring her over from the dark side, but when that was unsuccessful, I succumbed to just hoping for a Michigan win each year so I can have bragging rights for another year. Fortunately, this year I’ll be watching the game from a work trip in Buffalo while she’ll be at home in New York City, so the contentious moments in the heat of the game will be avoided. I can cheer and sing “The Victors” all I want without hurting her feelings. I can jeer Notre Dame follies and celebrate their mistakes without getting the silent treatment the rest of the day. Ahh, it’s Michigan-Notre Dame.

    Both teams made impressive statements last Saturday. Michigan dominated a UConn team that was picked by many to win the Big East this season. Notre Dame stifled an average Purdue team in new head coach Brian Kelly’s first game in South Bend.

    Both enter this week’s matchup with a lot of confidence and needing a win to silence the doubters. A Michigan win would set up the Wolverines for a great shot at a 5-0 start. A Notre Dame win would make Irish fans forget about Charlie Weis already. So what does Michigan need to do to win in South Bend on Saturday?

    1. Score a lot

    Obviously scoring is the name of the game for any team, but the combination of Michigan’s defense this year and Notre Dame’s offense virtually requires Michigan’s offense to score 35-plus points if it wants to win this game.

    The defense was bailed out by dropped passes and mistakes against UConn, which it can’t expect Notre Dame’s experienced receivers to make. Make no mistake about it: this defense won’t hold many teams to just 10 points, with the exception of maybe UMass and Bowling Green in the next couple of weeks.

    Last year was a shootout, with Michigan scoring the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left to beat Notre Dame 38-34. This year should be much the same and the offense is going to have to score often if it wants to keep pace with the Irish.

    2. Control the ball

    Sophomore RB Vincent Smith has scored touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season

    Sophomore RB Vincent Smith has scored touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season

    Time of possession doesn’t tell the whole story, but it certainly does help. Last week, Michigan controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes, the longest since Rich Rodriguez took over at Michigan in 2008.

    Denard Robinson, in his first collegiate start, ran 29 times for 197 yards and the offense racked up a total of 287 yards rushing. It put together four drives of 11 plays or more, three of which accounted for a total of over 22 minutes, or a third of the game.

    Putting together long drives wears down the opposing defense while keeping your defense off the field. So while you can’t look at the time of possession alone to determine the outcome of a game, it can certainly go a long way toward helping you win the game.

    2a. Hold onto the ball

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

    Michigan did a great job of taking care of the ball last week, though it did get lucky, recovering a muffed punt by Jeremy Gallon. In theory, rainy conditions should favor Michigan’s running game over Notre Dame’s spread passing offense as long as Michigan holds onto the ball.

    3. Don’t give up the big play

    Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist is just a sophomore in his first year as a starter, just like Robinson, but he has a very talented group of pass catchers.

    Two years ago, Golden Tate caught four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Last season, Tate and Michael Floyd torched the Michigan secondary with nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns and seven catches for 131 yards and one touchdown, respectively.

    Michigan was able to survive the onslaught last season because the offense was able to keep up. Tate is gone to the NFL, but Floyd is still there, as is tight end Kyle Rudolph, which means there’s no guarantee that the Michigan offense will be able to keep up this season. The defense has to employ the bend-but-don’t-break attitude that it used last week, making Notre Dame work to get the ball down the field, rather than making big plays.

    With safety Carvin Jonson out three-to-six weeks with a knee injury, the responsibility falls even greater on the defensive line to put pressure on Crist and keep him from settling in. If he does, he will pick the secondary apart.

    4. Control the line of scrimmage

    Sophomore DE/LB Craig Roh got into the backfield often last week. He needs to pressure Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist this week.

    Sophomore DE/LB Craig Roh got into the backfield often last week. He needs to pressure Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist this week.

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

    Defensively, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh should be able to get to Crist, but linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have to keep an eye on Rudolph or else Crist will pick the defense apart over the middle.

    Offensively, Michigan faces a 3-4 defense for the first time this season. Notre Dame nose tackle Ian Williams is big and slow and ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore didn’t do much to stop Michigan last season. Michigan’s line opened up holes for Robinson and running backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith to run through all game last week and if it can do the same, the offense will be able to put up points.

    Overall, I think this is sure to be a shootout. Rodriguez will likely open up the playbook a little more than was needed last week, so don’t expect Robinson to get 29 carries again. Depending on the weather, look for a little bit more from the passing game.

    Michigan is 2-8 in its last 10 road openers and 1-4 in its last five games in South Bend. Despite the great performance by Robinson last week, this will be his first start on the road in hostile territory, most likely in poor weather. He’s still unproven when forced to play from behind or use his arm to win the game, and I don’t think Michigan’s defense will be able to slow down Floyd and Rudolph enough to win the game.


    I desperately hope I’m proven wrong, but Notre Dame wins at home, 37-31.

    Denard Makes His Case for Starting QB Spot; Other Spring Game Observations

    Saturday, April 17th, 2010

    Starting spots usually aren’t won or lost in spring practice, but young guys get a chance to prove themselves and gain experience while everyone else gets to show how much they developed throughout the winter.

    Development was apparent in one key player today, as sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson lived up to the hype he’s been garnering all spring with a fantastic performance in Michigan’s annual spring game.

    Robinson led five touchdown drives in Saturday's spring game

    Robinson led five touchdown drives in Saturday's spring game

    On the first possession of the scrimmage, Robinson guided the first-team offense down the field on a touchdown drive that included a nice bootleg pass to Roy Roundtree. Robinson ran it in from 10 yards out to cap off the drive.

    On his next possession, which the offense started on its own three-yard line, Robinson hit Roundtree perfectly in stride about 25 yards downfield and Roundtree did the rest, outrunning the secondary for a 97-yard touchdown.

    Later on, Robinson found Roundtree in the end zone again, this time from 12 yards out.

    In the overtime drill, which simulates an overtime possession, starting from the opponent’s 25-yard line, Robinson completed a touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms from about 10 yards out. On his next possession, also the overtime drill, he threaded the needle for a 24-yard pass to Terrance Robinson to set up another touchdown.

    By my count, Robinson led five drives, two of them overtime possessions, and all five resulted in touchdowns. Some of this can be attributed to playing against the second-team defense, but with the way Robinson was throwing, it wouldn’t have mattered if the first-team defense was out there or not.

    One of the quirks about the spring game is that the quarterback is down once he’s touched in an effort to avoid an injury. On many of Robinson’s runs, he would have picked up significantly more yardage if he had to actually be tackled.

    Most importantly, he showed poise in the pocket, where last year he would tuck and run after three milliseconds. A few times, he looked through several reads before pulling it down and running. On a couple of plays, he kept his head up while on the move and delivered an accurate strike to an open receiver.

    This wouldn’t be all that significant if you hadn’t seen him play last season. While he dazzled Michigan fans with his feet in open space, his accuracy was terrible to the point where Michigan fans would rather him just run it up the middle for five yards even though the defense knew he’d do exactly that, than even attempt to throw a pass.

    Robinson, Gardner, and Forcier hope to take a step forward this season, photo by Tony Ding/AP

    Robinson, Gardner, and Forcier hope to take a step forward this season, photo by Tony Ding/AP

    Today, he looked comfortable running the offense and seemed to be having as much fun out there as any other player in the maize and blue. About the only aspect that looked like it needed some work was a couple of bubble screens that were either underthrown or led the receiver too far.

    I wish the coaches would have switched things up to pit Robinson against the first-team defense, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless.

    The development and comfort level was evident and showed how dangerous a Robinson-led offense can be when every pass thrown doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

    Last year, almost every time he lined up in the shotgun the defense knew he was going to run it. He rarely even ran the zone read, the staple of Rich Rodriguez’s offense.

    This year, he should know the offense and be able to effectively run the zone read, and if he can prove he has any kind of accuracy, he would be the ideal quarterback for this offense.

    I certainly realize it’s a lot of “ifs” and you can’t really jump to conclusions based on the spring game, but at this point, I would say Robinson is the starting quarterback heading into the summer.

    Click here to see highlights of the top 10 plays from the spring game.


    — Tate Forcier, who started all 12 games as a true freshman last year, looked basically the exact same, although he was working with the second-team offense against the first-team defense.

    He made some good plays, scrambling away from pressure and hitting the receiver on the run, but he also made some mistakes.

    Tate Forcier didn't show the same developement as Robinson

    Tate Forcier didn't show the same developement as Robinson

    One pass should have been picked off by linebacker Mike Jones and another was forced into quadruple coverage and somehow wasn’t picked. He also made a bad pitch on an option play, which was recovered by the running back for about a 10 yard loss.

    On the bright side, he completed a nice, across-the-body touchdown pass to Je’Ron Stokes in the overtime drill.

    —Freshman Devin Gardner started out shaky, fumbling a handoff on his first play and throwing an interception deep in his own territory to Obi Ezeh, but seemed to rebound nicely with a 20-yard seam pass to Brandon Moore.

    He looked nimble with his feet, but still has a weird throwing motion that needs to be fixed. He could be great a year or two from now, but I’m glad we don’t have to start another true freshman this season. He’s certainly headed for a redshirt barring a freak injury to Robinson or Forcier.

    —Roy Roundtree is the real deal. He played just as he finished last season and looks to be Michigan’s go-to guy this year. He caught deep balls and screens and showed some speed in pulling away from the secondary on the 97-yard touchdown.

    —The running back position has a lot of guys vying for playing time and no one really stood out today. With Vincent Smith assumed to be the starter out with a torn ACL, it seems to be a three-horse race between Michael Shaw, Michael Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.

    It’s perhaps the most important position that needs someone to step up, at least on the offensive side of the ball, after the departure of Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, and Kevin Grady.

    Cox had a nice touchdown run of about 20 yards against the first-team defense and the other guys didn’t do very much.

    Freshman Stephen Hopkins showed some good strength and should see playing time as the short-yardage back this season.

    —The defense didn’t show much today in the way of schemes or big plays. Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh got some good pressure on Forcier and William Campbell looks huge in the middle of the line.

    Troy Woolfolk sat out the game with a dislocated finger and converted wide receiver James Rogers started in his place, opposite J.T. Floyd. Jordan Kovacs remains the starter at one of the safety spots, at least until Marvin Robinson and Demar Dorsey arrive on campus this summer.

    The secondary will continue to be the group in question as the season nears, but linebacker will also be a position to watch. Seniors Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton both have a lot of experience, but lost some playing time last season. They both started today, with Ezeh recording an interception and Mouton looking solid.

    Redshirt sophomore Kenny Demens also looked promising and could factor in this season as well.

    —The kicking game looked pretty shaky and will probably be so all season. Redshirt freshman kicker Brendan Gibbons figures to be the placekicker, but the lefty sure can’t punt. Two of his three punt attempts were shanked out of bounds off the side of his foot.

    The punter role seems to be incoming freshman Will Hagerup’s to lose, but he hasn’t even arrived on campus yet, so he better live up to his high school acclaim.

    —The stadium looked a bit more than half full, despite the frigid temperatures. The Big Ten Network announcers placed the attendance around 30,000, but it looked to be slightly more.

    I’m looking forward to a couple of years from now when Michigan can have a nationally televised spring game drawing near 100,000 fans like Alabama did today.