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Posts Tagged ‘Senior Day’

Derick’s 3 thoughts: Indiana

Saturday, March 8th, 2014


Michigan-Indiana header2

Michigan’s final regular season game comes against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday at the Crisler Center. On paper this game means very little for the Wolverines, who clinched an outright Big Ten championship with a dominating win at Illinois on Tuesday. But finishing the season on a five-game winning streak would put Michigan in prime position to ride a hot streak into postseason play.

Indiana could have put itself in position to steal an NCAA Tournament bid with a winning streak to end the season, but Nebraska beat the Hoosiers in Assembly hall on Wednesday to virtually extinguish their chances to earn an at-large bid. Their only hope at this point is to win the Big Ten Tournament, and Tom Crean’s squad will look to get the momentum going today.

Here are three keys to consider during the final game of the regular season.

Put the Hoosiers in their place: Despite receiving a preseason top-25 ranking, Indiana played dreadful basketball during the majority of the Big Ten season. In fact, Indiana lost to all four of the worst teams in the conference, including an 82-64 waxing at Purdue on Feb. 15.

But on Feb. 2, when Michigan visited Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers put on a shooting clinic, shooting over 61 percent from three-point range. The 63-52 final gave Indiana its third win in a row over Michigan, which lost two close battles with the top-5 Hoosiers in early 2013.

Michigan surrendered a six-point lead with under a minute to play in a heartbreaking senior day-loss to Indiana last season, when a potential share of the Big Ten title slipped from the team’s grasp. This season, the Wolverines must make sure to write a different story.

Yogi Ferrell shot Michigan out of the gym in the last meeting. Can he do it again? (IUHoosiers.com)

Yogi Ferrell shot Michigan out of the gym in the last meeting. Can he do it again? (IUHoosiers.com)

The outright Big Ten champions boast a much more talented team than Indiana does this season, so Saturday offers the perfect chance to end this losing streak to Indiana. Michigan can put Indiana in its place on the final game of the regular season and avenge not only this season’s loss, but also the one that soured senior day for so many Wolverines in 2013.

Take the drive away from Yogi Ferrell: Michigan fans remember Yogi Ferrell for the unbelievable stroke he demonstrated in the first matchup February. The sophomore guard recorded his best shooting percentages of the season both overall (80 percent) and from beyond the arc (87.5 percent).

The numbers expose Ferrell’s impressive shooting against Michigan as an outlier. In the eight games since the unbelievable performance, the Hoosiers lost all three games in which their starting point guard shot double digit three pointers. Ferrell shot a total of 67 longballs in those games and connected on just 22 of them (32.8 percent).

Ferrell rarely stepped inside the three-point line against the Wolverines, but his real value does come inside the arc. He’s shooting a much higher percentage from short range in his past five games (50 percent), and when he gets to the free throw line he is one of the best shooters in the conference at over 81 percent.

Michigan allowed Ferrell and Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble to catch fire from three-point range during its first two Big Ten losses, but that doesn’t mean that the Michigan guards should overcommit to Ferrell as a shooter on Saturday. As one of the lowest fouling teams in the country, Michigan neutralizes the youngster’s automatic stroke from the charity stripe. If he struggles to connect on his first few three point attempts, the Wolverine defenders can erase any memory of the 27 points he recorded back in February.

End the senior night woes: The Crisler Center has posed one of the most difficult places for opposing basketball teams to play during the past two seasons. In 2012, Michigan held a perfect home record going into the final game in Ann Arbor, only to fall to an unranked Purdue team during Zack Novak and Stu Douglas’s senior night celebrations.

Last season No. 2 Indiana provided a much more formidable test, but the results were the same as Michigan suffered its only home loss of the season on senior night. This season, Jordan Morgan hopes to reverse that unfortunate trend.

Morgan’s five-year journey as a Michigan Wolverine takes another step closer to the end as he plays his final home game on Saturday. His leadership and willingness to do whatever the team needs made him a strong leader for Beilein throughout the reconstruction of this basketball program.

Michigan lost two tough games in Ann Arbor over the course of the season, so the pressure to polish off a perfect home slate has long since evaporated. If the Wolverines play at a level anywhere near that of their conference-clinching demolition of Illinois Tuesday, senior night should take care of itself and Morgan will walk off the court with career win number 114.

Prediction:  Michigan 80 – Indiana 67

A Thanksgiving salute to the seniors of Team 134

Thursday, November 28th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Thanksgiving is a time for all to remember what they are thankful for, and on Saturday 17 Wolverines will take the field for the final time in Michigan Stadium. They’ll play their hearts out, hoping to redeem an otherwise lost season and play spoiler to their most bitter rival’s perfect season. But before we get there, let’s take some time to thank those men of the maize and blue that made the decision to attend the University of Michigan.

Taylor Lewan
Career starts Consecutive starts Honors
46 39 All-Big Ten first team (2012), second team (2011), Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year (2012), Walter Camp first team All-American (2012), Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalist (2013)

Thank you Taylor Lewan for sticking it out for all five years. Thank you for forgoing sure millions in the 2012 NFL Draft to return to school, finish your career, and help mentor the young offensive linemen. Thank you for carrying on the tradition that so many linemen before you began. Your senior season hasn’t gone as planned, but you’ll go down as one of the all time Michigan great left tackles and while it doesn’t show right now, your leadership and guidance of the young guys will pay dividends in the coming years. May a long and productive career in the NFL await you.

Jeremy Gallon
Career Receptions Career Rec Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC
155 2,440 16 15.7

Thank you Jeremy Gallon for working hard to improve for five straight years. You committed to Rich Rodriguez while he was in the process of recruiting smaller guys but didn’t really even get to play in his offense. Thank you for sticking with Michigan through the coaching change and forcing yourself into the leading role in an offense built for taller receivers. You’re on pace to finish in the top five in every career receiving category and top two in single season receiving yards, despite standing just 5’8″. Whether the NFL comes calling or not, thank you for being a bright spot in an otherwise down season and best of luck for your future.

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Career Rushes Career Rushing Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC
503 2,255 26 4.5

Thank you Fitzgerald Toussaint for bringing excitement back to the Michigan backfield for the first time since Mike Hart left. We’ll always have 2011 when you ran for 1,041 yards and, along with Denard Robinson, became the first Michigan tandem to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season since the 1970s. This season has been tough and last season ended with a gruesome injury, but thank you for pushing hard to overcome the injury and work your way back into the starting role.

Brendan Gibbons
Career FG Attempted Career FG Made Career FG % Career PATs
60 45 75% 156-158 (98.7%)

Thank you Brendan Gibbons for your improvement throughout your five years in Ann Arbor. Your freshman struggles are a distant memory as you have become one of Michigan’s all-time best field goal kickers. Your game winning kicks against Virginia Tech in the 2012 bSugar Bowl and Michigan State in 2012 will always be remembered, as will your other game-tying kicks. You are proof that vast improvement can be made year-to-year.

Drew Dileo
Career Receptions Career Rec Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC Career Punt Ret Career Yds/Ret
39 560 5 14.4 11 7.2

Thank you Drew Dileo for coming north to play for Michigan and providing a set of sure hands. You’ll always be remembered for your big plays in helping Michigan end its losing streak to Michigan State in 2012, but more so for your hard work and dependability. When Hoke needed sure hands at returning punts, you filled in. Your ability to hold for field goals has been steady and the slide into the hold for the game-tying field goal against Northwestern this season will go down in history.

Michael Schofield
Career Games Played Career Starts
50 34

Thank you Michael Schofield for giving this year’s squad a veteran presence on the offensive line along with Taylor Lewan. While the season hasn’t gone as planned, your guidance of the young linemen will pay off down the road. You started your career at guard and then held down the right tackle spot for two years. Although you don’t have the accolades of Lewan, you’ve been a steady contributor and may you find a spot at the next level.

Thomas Gordon
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
36 214 3 11.5 3 4 6

Thank you Thomas Gordon for holding down the secondary and providing a veteran presence while Hoke’s young guys work their way into the lineup. You were the team’s third-leading tackler in both 2011 and 2012 and currently rank sixth this year. Your interception ended this year’s Northwestern game in overtime and you led the Big Ten in fumble recoveries in 2011. Thank you for a productive career.

Cameron Gordon
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
15 132 4 14 1 2 3

Thank you Cam Gordon for your flexibility over the past five seasons and being willing to play wherever you were needed in order to see the field. You came in as a receiver, switched to safety and then to linebacker and were named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America second team in 2010. A back injury forced you to miss time in 2011 but you fought your way back in 2012 and have played a key reserve role at linebacker and even defensive end the last two seasons. Perhaps most importantly you were named Academic All-Big Ten each of the last three seasons, so big things are in store for you when your playing days are done.

Jibreel Black
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
14 69 7 14 3 0 0

Thank you Jibreel Black for an under the radar but productive career. You waited your turn, serving as an important reserve defensive lineman in 2011 and 2012 before working your way into the starting lineup this season. You recorded three sacks in the final four games of 2011 and made a key sack in overtime against Northwestern this season.

Quinton Washington
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
16 54 1 3 1 0 0

Thank you Quinton Washington for giving the team a veteran leader on the defensive line despite coming to Michigan on the other side of the ball. You started your career at right guard in 2010 before switching over to the defense. You blocked a kick against South Carolina in last season’s Outback Bowl and have held down the middle of the defense in the absence of Ondre Pipkins this season.

Courtney Avery
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
18 109 1.5 5 3 3 2

Thank you Courtney Avery for outperforming your recruiting rankings and earning a spot as team captain this season. You’ll be remembered for your interception on Ohio State’s final drive in 2011 to seal the win, ending their winning streak. You tied a Michigan record for longest fumble recovery against Minnesota that same year. You’ve battled injuries but always found a way to get on the field. You were given the honor of wearing the No. 11 Legends jersey to honor the Wistert brothers, Francis, Albert, and Alvin, and that will be something you can be proud of when your playing days are over.

Thank you Joe Reynolds, Jeremy Jackson, Jareth Glanda, Erik Gunderson, Dylan Esterline, and Kristian Mateus for your contributions to the Michigan football program over the last four or five years. You helped prepare the team for battle week in and week out and can take pride in being able to don the maize and blue. Best of luck wherever your post football careers lead you.

These 17 young men will be honored prior to Saturday’s game, so regardless of how you view this season make sure to get there in time to give them the ovation they deserve. If you’re not happy with the way this season has gone, you can bet they feel it ten times worse, but all of them came in under a different head coach and, stuck out the transition, and have laid the foundation for Hoke’s future success.

Brady Hoke postgame transcript: Iowa

Sunday, November 18th, 2012


Following Michigan’s 42-17 win over Iowa on Senior Day, Brady Hoke spoke to the media about Denard, the new offense, and the upcoming battle with Ohio State.

Brady Hoke speaks to the media after the Iowa game (Justin Potts, M&GB)

Opening Statement
“It was a good game, a good football win. The seniors got to go up the tunnel senior victors for the last time in this game and we put a lot of emphasis on that because of the struggles and what they go through when you look at a guy who’s been here for our five years. So it was great for them and great for our team that the younger guys, younger-classmen, went out there and competed for  them. That’s the expectation and the guys who are seniors who were playing in their last game at Michigan Stadium, I thought they did a nice job of going out there and playing 60 minutes of football.”

On how difficult it is to see the seniors perform for the last time in Michigan Stadium…
“It’s always difficult and that’s because I’m a very emotional person, good or bad. Pick your poison. We get very tight, close with the players because we are there to help them grow, so from a personal life standpoint to the academics to social to everything else, they’re your sons. That’s the way we look at it.”

On when he made the decision for Denard to play and come up with the role he played…
“I didn’t make the decision for him to play. Once he got cleared and he felt good health wise, we had talked about doing this for 18 months. Al [Borges], when he got home last week after the Northwestern game that night, he had nine plays ready. And we put six more in. So I think Al Does a tremendous job of taking your personnel and the playmakers that you have on your team and having the ability to get them the ball and let their God-given ability take over.”

On Fitz Toussaint’s injury…
“He’s in the hospital now and he has surgery. I think we’ll leave it at that for now. His mother wasn’t here, he had two brothers here, so we’ll leave it at that.”

On how important it was to work out some of the kinds with Devin and Denard on the field at the same time before next week…
“Next week really never had anything to do with it. We had to beat Iowa. We’re still in a championship race and we wanted to win this game for our seniors and also because we’re still in a race for the championship.”

On whether there was any thought of using Denard as quarterback…
“Well, I think it would be unjust for us not to use him in the best way that we thought would let him be the most successful. He’s throwing the ball a little bit, he’s not throwing it a lot, so we felt this was the best. This kid has put up with a lot of criticism at times [and] he’s been praised at times. He’s a competitive guy who loves the game and loves his teammates and he showed great maturity the last three weeks and great leadership.”

On whether he had to convince Denard that he would play, but not at quarterback…
“No.”

On whether there was any thought of playing him at quarterback…
“Nuh uh. There really wasn’t. I mean it was you wanna play, where could he help us best playing.”

On whether Denard can throw the ball…
“Yeah, but not as well as he’d like to.”

On Denard’s personality of being willing to not “be the boss” in his last home game…
“I think it tells you about what kind of kid he is, what kind of young man, I should say, he is. His development, his growth, his character, and the integrity. This kid has had some unbelievable moments here at Michigan and in Michigan Stadium and he has had some moments that weren’t so good. But he has grown within this team and this is his team. Him and [Jordan] Kovacs – all the seniors have a big piece of it, and I know Devin said it the other day, he has been the face of Michigan football.”

On how comfortable Devin looked scoring six touchdowns…
“He had six touchdowns? See I don’t remember that stuff. [Reporter: "He was pretty good."] Well, I think you answered your questions, he was pretty good [everybody laughs].”

On whether he heard the crowd chanting ‘Beat Ohio’…
“Yeah, and I said to somebody next to me we need to beat Iowa.”

On the comfort level of the team playing at home, having not lost at home in two years…
“Well, I think you see it in all kinds of sports, playing at home is something that’s treated us well and I think the familiarity with everything. I wish I could tell ya, I just think there’s a comfort, I guess.”

On whether his teams have always played well at home…
“I have no clue. Again, it’s something that I don’t think about.”

On whether the offense used against Iowa will be what we see going forward…
“Going forward where?”

Ohio State and the bowl, or could Denard go back to quarterback?…
“Umm, I don’t know. I guess he could. I don’t know. It’s an option.”

On when Denard was cleared, what he had to do to get cleared, and is he able to grip the football…
“Yeah, yeah. What’s today, Saturday? Probably, umm, six days ago.”

On whether Denard is cleared for good now or if he’s still day to day…
“He might be day to day.”

On whether Fitz’s injury was his ankle or leg…
“I’m not going to [get into that]. I want to make sure his mother has been contacted.”

On what it will mean coaching his first game in Columbus as head coach…
“It’s fun. It is fun. Because it’s a great rivalry and there’s a lot of respect on both sides, both programs. So for both programs it’s fun. It’s fun. It’s going to be fun.”

On the success of the downfield passing game today…
“Well, I think some play action set it up. Gallon made a terrific catch with concentration. The ball was where it needed to be and it was defended pretty decently. One of the best throws that was made – and catches – was an out on the sideline to Roy [Roundtree]. I thought Roy did a nice job with his hands. I said this last week, but I think Roy is really catching the ball more with his hands and not as much in his body as he had earlier.”

On when he noticed Roy starting to catch the ball more with his hands…
“Shoot, I don’t know. Sometime. Probably in practice”

On whether the offense threw things out that Ohio State will have to prepare for…
“You know, if I was that smart to do that, I would have done it. But no, we were trying to beat Iowa. We were trying to put our players – it would be very selfish of us as coaches for us not to give these kids the best chance to win a football game. Whatever we do offensively or defensively to prepare, if we don’t do that, then we’re short-selling this program and these seniors and these kids, and we’re not going to do that.”

On what prevented him from using this offense prior to today…
“How would I answer this. [Reporter: "Honestly." Crowd laughs] I would say in doing it it would have been done kind of like we did last year a little bit more when we had both of them on the field and we just added to it. There’s a maturity level for everybody that it takes to be able to handle those kind of things.”

On whether he meant Devin at quarterback and Denard at receiver…
“Maybe. Sort of.”

On how the job of the receivers and the way Devin is throwing the ball is helping the offense pick up where Denard left off…
“I think there’s a lot of truth to all of that. I think our front is blocking better. I think part of that is the play action game. I think part of it’s the play action out of the I-back that has helped.”

On how tough it is for an opposing defense to prepare for a new formation…
“Well, you’ve got to spend some time on it, so sometimes that’s the biggest thing. You’re spending time maybe on a formation that was run three times and thinking what can you do out of it, what can they do out of it, and so as a coach, you’re spending your time and then you’re taking practice time. So, it’s time and there’s one thing that none of us have is a lot of time.”

On how confident he is that the players can put the emotion of the last home game behind them…
“Well, they’re going to have to. I’m pretty confident in how our seniors have led and how we’ve gone to work every Sunday – win and lose.”

On the defense’s performance…
“Yeah, we missed some sacks, we don’t tackle, they’re knocking us off the line of scrimmage early. It was awful.”

On Desmond Morgan’s status…
“I thought he’d be ready, but he’s not.”

On whether he wants to say what the injury is…
“No.”

On Gary Moeller getting honored during a timeout and what it means to him…
“It means a lot. Coach Mo as a person, as a coach, and a man, means a lot. Means a lot to Michigan.”

Michigan 42 – Iowa 17: Devin and Denard show topples Hawkeyes

Sunday, November 18th, 2012


Michigan scored touchdowns on its first six drives and Devin Gardner had a career day as Michigan routed an Iowa team that had beaten it the past three seasons. Denard Robinson played his last game ever in the Big House, and boy was it a good one.

Michigan 42 – Iowa 17
Final Stats
42 Final Score 17
8-3, 6-1 Record 4-7, 2-5
513 Total Yards 309
199 Net Rushing Yards 128
314 Net Passing Yards 181
23 First Downs 17
1 Turnovers 0
3-35 Penalties – Yards 3-21
1-43 Punts – Yards 4-165
30:23 Time of Possession 29:37
9-of-12 Third Down Conversions 6-of-14
2-of-2 Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-3
2-7 Sacks By – Yards 0-0
0-for-0 Field Goals 1-for-1
6-for-6 PATs 2-for-2
4-for-4 Red Zone Scores – Chances 3-for-4

With his elbow injury still inhibiting his ability to throw Denard took the field as a running back. Most assumed it was just to let the senior get on the field one last time, but Al Borges had other ideas. In a glimpse of what he might be in the NFL, Denard played a little running back, wide receiver and quarterback, though he did not attempt any passes. He even managed to break a couple of his trademark runs; one came on a reception which he turned back and ran the entire width of the field en route to a big gain. While it was great to see Denard be Denard again it wasn’t all fun and games as Fitz Toussaint had to be carted off the field with a broken leg. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can be back to 100 percent come next spring.

Much like Ohio State has been the Braxton Miller show all year, this game was the Devin Gardner show as he accounted for all six Wolverine scores: three in the air and three on the ground. And while the Iowa defense isn’t anything to be feared, Gardner did what any good quarterback should do against a poor defense: torch it. Devin went 18-of-23 for a career high 314 yards passing and added 37 more yards on the ground to go along with the aforementioned six touchdowns.

The game appeared as though it might be a battle at first as Iowa moved within four points with nine minutes to go in the second quarter. But Michigan had other ideas and rattled off 28 unanswered after that and closed out the Hawkeyes in convincing fashion.

After Michigan scored to go up 7-0, Iowa mounted a 75-yard drive on the legs of Mark Weisman and it looked like Iowa was going to run all over Michigan. The Wolverines answered, scoring on a 37-yard pass to Roundtree, who has quite the chemistry with Gardner. Iowa added a field goal on its next possession to cut the lead to 14-10, but that would be as close as they got. Gardner ran in a score, then hit Vincent Smith on a great screen play to put Michigan up 28-10 at the half. The only mistake – if you want to call it that – that Michigan made all day was a Gardner pick in the fourth quarter.

It is yet to be determined whether Denard will resume his duties as quarterback next week against the Buckeyes. If I had to guess I’d say that Hoke and Borges will keep Gardner as the starter and continue to use Denard as a receiver/running back. Denard is the heart and soul of this team but there is no denying they are a much better offensive team with Gardner at the helm. Not to take anything away from what Denard means but Gardner is the better passer, plain and simple. That said, Denard is too deadly of an athlete and leader to keep off the field. The freak nerve injury to his elbow may be just what Michigan needs to get past the surging Buckeyes who are still chock full of elite talent, while Michigan is still rebuilding from its failed RichRod experiment. At the very least, we’ve seen a glimpse of what this offense will look like next season with Gardner as the full time starter. I am in no way saying this should have been the set up all year, but now that we’ve seen it I have to say I like it a lot.

Michigan travels to Columbus to take on the undefeated Buckeyes in what is essentially OSU’s bowl game. Before the season I predicted a Michigan loss, but with Devin Gardner under center and Denard Robinson being utilized in other ways I may just change my mind. I will save my prediction for our weekly staff picks later this week.

Denard Robinson postgame transcript: Iowa

Saturday, November 17th, 2012


Michigan beat Iowa 42-17 and Denard Robinson, in his last game in Michigan Stadium saw snaps at quarterback, running back, and receiver. He started the game at running back in his first game since his injury suffered at Nebraska and amassed 122 total yards (98 rushing, 24 receiving). He spoke to the media afterwards and got a little bit choked up at times.

Denard speaks to the media after his last game in Michigan Stadium (Justin Potts, M&GB)

On what it meant to be a senior leader and a Michigan quarterback…
“It means a lot. It’s hard to put into words what this means to me. Being the leader on this team and being one of the guys that was picked by the team to be a captain and a leader, it’s kind of hard to swallow right now because it’s come to an end.”

On when he knew he would play today and when he started working on playing running back/receiver…
“I’ve been getting treatment a lot and [it] has been getting better and better, so once I got a chance to get the go-ahead, I went out and started practicing, started playing a lot of stuff.”

On how desperately he wanted to play in his last game and whether he had to campaign the coaches to do so…
“Oh no. I think everybody knew. They know me, and they know that I’ll do whatever it takes for the team. I’m the kind of person that if I can go, I’m going to go and I won’t hold back. I’ll do whatever for this team – that’s my family.”

On how his elbow feels now, and whether he could have thrown the ball if he had to…
“It feels pretty good. I threw the ball in warmups, so we’ll see next week.”

On who’s idea it was to play the role he did today…
“Coach. Coach Borges. He dialed up some good stuff and I was all for it.”

On getting the ball from Devin Gardner instead of him throwing to Devin like it was in the first half of the season…
“It is kind of funny, but we never talked about it. It was just, let’s go with it.”

On what he was thinking about walking up the tunnel for the last time…
“All the memories that I had with the team and being with these guys. Everything we went through – the ups and downs in the stadium – just memories that kept going through my head.”

On whether there is a memory that stands out more than others…
“Not really. I think just thinking about it being my last time playing in the Big House. It just blows my mind because time went by so fast. It just surprised me that it went by so fast. I guess we were having fun, and when you’re having fun, time goes.”

On when he started practicing again…
“This week, I got the go-ahead.”

On whether he practiced the last couple of weeks…
“I did a little bit, and it was day to day what I could do and what I couldn’t do.”

On whether he has any discomfort at all with his elbow. It looked like he grimaced after patting an Iowa defender on the helmet after a play…
“No, I was good. He made a good hit on me so I gave him a slap on the hat.”

On Devin Gardner’s performance the last three weeks…
“He’s doing great and he’s been playing well. We all faith in him and we all knew he could do it. I’m behind him 100 percent. I support him and we support him. He’s doing a great job and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the future.”

On his comfort level with the role he played today and what the challenge was in that role…
“Of course, going against another defense, but our offensive line did well when I did run the ball. When I did get it off a screen pass or something like that I feel like they did a great job blocking. I just had to try to make a play.”

On whether this gives Ohio State more to think about for next week…
“Oh yeah (laughs), oh yeah. It’s going to be a great game and it’s going to be a physical game, but right now we’re focused on this win.”

On Fitz Toussaint’s injury…
“That’s our brother. You know, it’s always sad and it’s always bad when you see one of your brothers on the ground and you can’t help him right then and there. So it was bad, but he’s a strong guy and I know he will bounce back  and our prayers go out to him.”

On whether there was a point after his elbow injury where he didn’t know if he was going to be able to come back and play, and how easy it was to embrace this new role…
“When I had the time off and they said I couldn’t play those two weeks, I was just like ‘man,’ it was a bad feeling, because I never miss big games. I missed one game and that was like my first year playing football. I’ve missed three games my whole life, so it was different for me being on the sidelines and cheering them on. It was tough, but when I got the chance to get back on the field, there was no question. It was like let’s just go out there and have fun and enjoy being with your team.”

On whether he was he tempted to throw the ball at all…
“I wasn’t tempted, I mean Coach made some good calls and I was ready to do what I had to do to try to help the team out.”

On whether he has ever played a game where he was the quarterback but never threw the ball…
“No, I haven’t.”

On what he and Devin Gardner said when they embraced after the game…
“I just told him to keep going. Keep leading, keep playing your game. We’re behind you. That’s all.”

On how he would evaluate his career based on what he thought he would accomplish when he first got here…
“I couldn’t imagine what I have done. I didn’t think I’d have as much success as I’ve had. I think God blessed me to give me the opportunity to play and start for three years and keep going at it. To have the opportunity to graduate next semester. I feel like it’s a blessing to be here and it means a lot. It means a lot.”

On how surreal it was to be in the huddle but not calling the plays…
“It was different, but practice kind of made me go ‘Ok, you’re not going to call the plays right now’ so I was in the back of the huddles trying to listen to what was going on. It was kind of different.”

On his thoughts on his last game in front of the home fans…
“It is just an honor to be playing in front of so many people. They cheer for you and they can’t wait to see you play or see the team come out of the tunnel and the winged helmet being on the field. I want to say thank you to everybody that ever came out and supported us and personally, I love them, I love the fans, and appreciate them.”

Michigan vs Iowa game preview

Friday, November 16th, 2012


The final home game of the season is upon us and Michigan will be looking to send its seniors off in style with a win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. At this point, the Hawkweys hold the longest winning streak of any opponent over Michigan – three games – and Brady Hoke would love to end that just as he did to the streaks Ohio State and Michigan State had accumulated.

For the third straight week, uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position as Denard Robinson has yet to be publicly cleared to play. Devin Gardner has filled in nicely the past two weeks and will likely be tasked to do the same tomorrow. Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten Legends division title and a spot in the championship game, but must win out.

Michigan Stadium  -  Ann Arbor, Mich.
12pm EST  -  ESPN
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Iowa Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (14th season)
Coaching Record: 100-72 (112-93 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Starters: 8 (5 offense, 3 defense)
Last Season: 7-6 (4-4)
Last Meeting: Iowa 24 – Michigan 16 (2011)
All-time Series: Michigan leads 40-13-4
In Ann Arbor: Michigan leads 23-6-3
In Michigan Stadium: 22-5-3
Current Streak: Iowa 3

Iowa should provide a nice tune-up for the epic showdown that looms in Columbus a week from tomorrow. The Hawkeyes come in needing a win to stay alive for bowl contention. At 4-6, Iowa must win its last two to get a bowl bid. Iowa’s four wins were over Northern Illinois (18-17), Northern Iowa (27-16), Minnesota (31-13), and Michigan State (19-16 OT). The Hawkeyes lost to Iowa State (9-6), Central Michigan (32-31), Penn State (38-14), Northwestern (28-17), Indiana (24-21), and Purdue (27-24). The latter four of those losses have come consecutively in the last four weeks following the overtime victory over MSU. Can Iowa somehow rekindle the magic it found in East Lansing? Or will Michigan ensure the ‘Hawks will be home for the holidays? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Iowa has the ball

As I explained in Monday’s First Look, Iowa’s offense has been downright anemic this season under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. The man who coordinated Texas’ offense for 13 seasons hasn’t been able to get things going, but he also doesn’t have Vince Young at his disposal.

James Vandenberg is a competent quarterback, but doesn’t have much to throw to due to the departure of Marvin McNutt. Vandenberg has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 1,976 yards, five touchdowns, and six interceptions. He hasn’t thrown for 250 yards in a game all season and hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns in a single game either. Penn State held him to just 47.2 percent completions for 189 yards, a touchdown, and two picks and his numbers against Iowa State, Michigan State, and Purdue were similar.

As mentioned above, he lacks top-notch receivers like he had with McNutt. The leaders are Kennan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley who have 46 catches for 560 yards and 47 catches for 545 yards, respectively. But only Martin-Manley has multiple touchdown grabs (two). Mammoth tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz 31 receptions for 278 yards and a touchdown. The main issue has been big plays. The entire offense has just 14 plays of 25 yards or more this season. McNutt had 15 by himself a year ago.

James Vandenberg led the Big Ten in passing last season, but has just five TDs in 2012

In the backfield, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God has struck again. The leading rusher, Mark Weisman, had four straight 100-yard games, including a 217-yard performance against Central Michigan and 116 yards against Michigan State. But he left the Northwestern game with an ankle injury and has missed the last two games. He’s likely out this week as well. In his stead, sophomore Damon Bullock has been up and down. He rushed for 107 yards against Northwestern and 150 in the season opener, but has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the last two weeks. Purdue, who Michigan shredded for 304 yards rushing, held him to just 43 yards on 23 carries.

Davis’ offense is of the pro-style variety and calls for a zone running scheme and an underneath passing game. The offensive line has been through its share of injuries this season and has been a major factor in the lack of a run game. The lack of a true deep threat like McNutt has caused the underneath routes to be less effective. Expect Greg Mattison to unleash a blitz scheme designed to pressure Vandenberg into making quick decisions.

When Michigan has the ball

Like the offense, Iowa’s defense is guided by a new coordinator this season. Phil Parker has a solid group of linebackers but not much else. Despite the new coordinator it’s essentially the same defensive style as what Norm Parker ran, as Phil Parker was the team’s defensive backs coach for the previous 13 seasons.

While the Hawkeyes rank 29th nationally in points allowed, the total defense is a mediocre 51st. Each of the last four opponents have racked up over 400 yards of offense, and Penn State surpassed 500.

Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens is the Big Ten’s leading tackler by a wide margin with 114, while James Morris ranks third and Christian Kirksey ranks 12th. Each of the three has more tackles than Michigan’s leading tackler, Desmond Morgan and they’re all solid linebackers.

The rest of the defense, not so much. Tackle Joe Gaglione has five sacks and nine tackles for loss, but no one else on the team has more than two sacks. The line has trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, ranking 111th nationally with just 11 sacks in 10 games.

The secondary has a pair of experienced corners in Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery. Hyde is the team’s fourth leading tackler with 67, has a pair of fumble recoveries, and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 12 pass breakups. The three-year starter doesn’t get beat often. Lowery, you might remember for knocking down Michigan’s final pass in the end zone last year, thwarting the comeback attempt.

The 4-3 defense employed by Parker isn’t overly aggressive and prefers to sit back and let the play come to it. The last four opponents have scored just an average of just over 29 points per game, and there’s no reason to think Michigan won’t do otherwise.

Rushing Attempts: 12 – Denard will pass Tyrone Wheatley for 6th in career rushing attempts.
Rushing Yards: 4 – Denard will pass Tyrone Wheatley for 4th in career rushing yards. With 115, he could pass Missouri’s Brad Smith (2002-05) for 2nd in NCAA FBS history. With 219, he could pass Jamie Morris for 3rd in Michigan history.
Rushing Touchdowns: 1 – Denard will pass Mike Hart for 3rd in career rushing touchdowns.
100 rushing yards: Denard will pass Jamie Morris for 4th in career 100-yard rushing games.
Pass Completions: 17 – Denard will pass Tom Brady for 5th in career completions.
Pass Yards: 211 – Denard will pass Elvis Grbac for 3rd in career passing yards.
Total Yards: 170 – Denard will pass Illinois’ Juice Williams (2006-09) for 6th in career total yards in Big Ten history.
Field Goals: 1 – Brendan Gibbons will pass Bob Bergeron for 6th in career field goals made. With 2 he will tie Ali Haji-Sheikh for 5th.

The other third

Kicker Mike Meyer has converted 16-of-19 field goals on the season with a long of 50. He made 14-of-20 last season and 14-of-17 in 2010 for a career average of 78.6. Punter Connor Kornbrath has an average of 37.4, which ranks 10th in the conference. Former Michigan quarterback commit John Wienke has also punted a dozen times with similar results.

The return game is below average, although Jordan Cotton leads the Big Ten with a 27.9-yard kick return average with one touchdown. Hyde handles punt return duties with an average of 5.4 yards per return. The Hawkeyes do defend returns pretty well, ranking 31st and 27th nationally in kick and punt return coverage, respectively.

Prediction

The biggest danger for Michigan in this one is overlooking the Hawkeyes for next week’s battle in Columbus. But a couple of factors exist that won’t allow that to happen. First of all, it’s Senior Day, so Denard, Jordan Kovacs, et al. will want to go off in style. Secondly, Michigan has the nation’s second longest home winning streak and hasn’t lost in the Big House since Hoke took over. Finally, Iowa has won the last three meetings and you can bet Hoke won’t let the team overlook that fact. Michigan will come to battle Iowa as if the Hawkeyes were the Buckeyes.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Denard didn’t play much. Michigan can win this one without him and needs him fully healthy for Ohio State, a possible Big Ten championship game, and the bowl game. There’s no use in letting him re-aggravate the elbow in this one. That being said, it is his final game in Michigan Stadium, so he may start and play a series or see a few plays here and there, but don’t expect him to play the full game.

With Gardner at quarterback, Michigan’s offense will look like it has the past two weeks. Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls will split time in the backfield, although Vincent Smith will likely get some time as well since he’s a senior. Gardner will have another big day throwing and Michigan will cruise to a win, setting up the big one next Saturday.

Michigan 35 – Iowa 17