photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Posts Tagged ‘Tate Forcier’

Not this time: Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 14

Sunday, August 31st, 2014


Funchess TD vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

Seven years ago one of the best collections of senior talent in recent Michigan history suffered the most embarrassing loss in program history. This time around, a Michigan squad entering the season with plenty of questions made sure it didn’t suffer the same fate. Football was back in the Big House and Michigan left no doubt, sending Appalachian State back to Boone, N.C. in a much different fashion than it did in 2007 with a 52-14 loss.

After forcing a three-and-out on App State’s first possession, Michigan didn’t take long to find the end zone. Devin Gardner pitched the ball out to Devin Funchess for 11 yards on the first play, and nine plays later, found Funchess in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. On the opening drive, Dennis Norfleet caught a 10-yard pass and Jehu Chesson caught a 19-yard pass.

Michigan’s defense forced another App State punt and the second drive began and ended just like the first. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards, and after four De’Veon Smith runs, Gardner hit Funchess for a 34-yard catch and run touchdown to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

Michigan’s offense stalled a bit at the beginning of the second quarter. The Wolverines forced another punt, but couldn’t do much on their third possession of the game. Derrick Green busted a 19-yard run on the possession’s second play, but Gardner was sacked two plays later and Michigan punted. After another App State punt, Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh for 26 yards to the App State 30. The drive stalled and Matt Wile missed a 48-yard field goal.

UM-AppSt-small-final-final
Final Stats
Michigan App State
Score 52 14
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 560 280
Net Rushing Yards 350 153
Net Passing Yards 210 127
First Downs 24 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 4-44 8-69
Punts-Yards 1-46 8-287
Time of Possession 30:08 29:52
Third Down Conversions 5-of-8 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 2-9 1-8
Field Goals 1-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 7-for-7 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Full Box Score

App State still couldn’t muster any offense, punting it right back to Michigan and the Wolverines’ offense finally clicked once again. Green ripped off a 59-yard run on the first play and Gardner found Funchess for nine yards on the second. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the ASU 8-yard line and Gardner lobbed up a jump ball for Funchess in the back of the end zone on the next play. Funchess leaped over two defenders, caught the ball, and got a foot down to give Michigan a 21-0 lead.

Michigan’s next possession was all on the ground as Smith rambled for 61 yards on the first play and a 12-yard touchdown on the next and it appeared that Michigan would take a 28-0 lead into the half. But the special teams had different plans. After forcing App State to punt once again, Mike McCray blocked the punt and Ben Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for the score. Through one half of play, Michigan had out gained Appalachian State 334-74.

In the second half, Michigan picked up right where it left off, this time letting Green do the work. Green carried the ball on all six plays, yet again breaking a big one, this time for 62 yards, and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Appalachian State finally got in on the action, putting together its first extended drive of the day. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh. The scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass from Bryant to Jaylan Barbour.

App State fooled Michigan with an onside kick recovery, but the kicker inadvertently touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Michigan took over at the ASU 44-yard line. Gardner led off the drive with a 17-yard pass to Norfleet, then rushed twice for three and eight yards. After a three-yard pass to Chesson, Smith punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 49-7.

Michigan forced another App State punt and Shane Morris came in to relieve Gardner. On the drive’s third play, Morris connected with Keith Heitzman for 26 yards, but on the following play, Morris was intercepted at the App State 4-yard line.

The Mountaineers took advantage, marching 96 yards in 19 plays. Marcus Cox carried it in from a yard out for App State’s second touchdown of the game. Matt Wile kicked an 18-yard field goal on Michigan’s next possession and the Wolverines won 52-14.

Gardner passed Tom Brady for seventh on Michigan’s career touchdown list, going 13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards and three scores, becoming the first player in Michigan history to score three touchdowns in the season opener. Green led Michigan with with 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (11.3 yards per carry), while Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries (14.4 yards per carry).

As a team, Michigan amassed 560 total yards and averaged 10.2 yards per play, while holding Appalachian State to just 280 total yards — mostly with the second-team defense in. Michigan converted 5-of-8 third downs and held App State to just 5-of-17. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley each recorded a sack, while Desmond Morgan and James Ross led the team with six tackles apiece.

Michigan travels to South Bend next Saturday for the final meeting with Notre Dame. The Irish beat Rice 48-17 in Week 1.

Notes: 

Devin Funchess switched from No. 87 to No. 1 prior to the game, marking the first time the number has been worn since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

 The Michigan Stadium attendance of 106,811 was the 252nd consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans.

 Michigan is now 111-21-3 all-time in season openers and Brady Hoke is now 9-3 (4-0 at Michigan).

 The game captains for Michigan were Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Devin Gardner, Desmond Morgan, and Jake Ryan.

 Jabrill Peppers was injured in the first quarter, but played the rest of the half. He did not play the second half. Hoke said afterward that he could have gone if needed, but they wanted to keep him healthy for next week.

 Gardner’s 92.8 completion percentage was second in program history with a minimum of 10 completions, behind only Tate Forcier’s 100 percent (12-of-12) versus Bowling Green on Sept. 25, 2010.

• Gardner also passed Tom Brady for ninth in career passing yards (5,280).

 Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both eclipsed 100 yards, the 38th time two backs have done so in the same game in program history. It was the first time since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor did so against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.

 Michigan’s streak of 15 consecutive games with a forced turnover ended.

2012 Michigan offense infographic

Monday, January 14th, 2013



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

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

STAYING THE COURSE: All-In for Rich Rodriguez

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010


As if any more commentary on the current Michigan coaching situation is called for, I need to bring closure to the regular season by injecting my stance into the conversation.

It has been no secret over the course of the past three seasons that I have supported Rich Rodriguez. I have been one of a group that has been declining in number and popularity by the week and I’m not quite ready to give in just yet.

Rodriguez celebrates a comeback win over Wisconsin in 2008 (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

It was our beloved legend Bo Schembechler who once said, “When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft; on the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.”

I suppose you can support the team but not Rodriguez, and the argument could be made that if you truly want what’s best for the team you should want the coach who has gone 15-21 in the past three seasons gone, but I’m still believing. I’ve never been one to make knee-jerk decisions. I believe in giving people a chance and standing by a decision. I also think a college football coach should be given at least four years, or long enough to field a team full of his own recruits.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things work these days. We’ve let our fast food mentality permeate our sports expectations to the point that if a coach doesn’t win the national championship in his first season, fans are already calling for his head.

In the case of Rodriguez, the reasons things have gone the way they have gone have been discussed over and over again, so I won’t get into that. Instead, I’ll present my reasoning for wanting to keep him.

To begin with, progress has been made in each of Rodriguez’s first three seasons. In 2008, the team went 3-9; in 2009, it went 5-7; and in 2010, it is currently 7-5 with a chance to make it 8-5 with a New Years Day bowl win over Mississippi State.

The tired, “Yeah but it’s Michigan” meme needs to stop because it’s arrogant and ignorant. I want nothing more than to be winning Big Ten championships and playing in BCS bowls year-after-year, but three years ago we were all clamoring for a change from that. We were the ones unhappy with simply competing for Big Ten titles each year and getting blown out by USC in Rose Bowls. We were the ones excited when Lloyd Carr retired because of the possibility of ushering Michigan football into the modern era.

Then the father of the spread offense came to Ann Arbor and inherited a team full of Carr’s guys, and they weren’t the ones that led the team to those Big Ten titles. They’re now playing on Sundays. He was left with walk-on Nick Sheridan and freshman Steven Three to quarterback his first Michigan team. We all know how year one went: offensive ineptitude at a level Michigan hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

The offense scored just 243 points in that first season, an average of just 20.3 per game, as it struggled to move the ball on anyone other than Minnesota. It lost at home to Toledo, Northwestern, and Purdue and got trounced by Notre Dame, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Those games weren’t even competitive and we all had our egos bruised.

Three-Year Comparison
  2008 2009 2010
Win-Loss 3-9 5-7 7-5
Big Ten 2-6 1-7 3-5
Scoring Offense 20.25 29.5 34.33
Scoring Off. Ranking 98 45 22
Rushing YPG 147.58 186.17 251.08
Rush Off. Ranking 60 27 11
Passing YPG 143.17 198.33 249.83
Pass Off. Ranking 108 81 35
Total Offense 290.75 384.5 500.92
Total Off. Ranking 111 59 6
Scoring Defense 28.92 27.5 33.83
Scoring Def. Ranking 80 79 102
Rush Defense YPG 136.92 171.92 187.67
Rush Def. Ranking 49 92 94
Pass Defense YPG 230.0 221.42 260.25
Pass Def. Ranking 87 69 111
Total Defense 366.92 393.33 447.92
Total Def. Ranking 69 81 108
*Rankings reflect national ranking

Year two saw Rodriguez bring in some of his own guys, his first true recruiting class, and he finally had the anchors of his offense in quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.

Forcier was the quarterback to lead the Wolverines that season and the freshman growing pains were evident but the team showed significant progress. It scored 354 points, an average of 29.5 per game, and stayed competitive for much of the season. It beat Notre Dame, took Michigan State to overtime, and nearly came back to beat Iowa on the road, but still failed to really compete against Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, and lost again to Purdue.

Progress was made, but it was essentially a freshman offense. It’s hard enough to win with a quarterback who was at prom six months ago, let alone when his surrounding cast is made up of youth as well.

This season, enormous strides were made offensively and Michigan improved to one of the best offenses in the nation, scoring 412 points, an average of 34.3 per game. The team turned a lot of heads eraly in the season with the breakout performance of Denard Robinson, who beat out Forcier for the starting spot. Robinson broke the NCAA FBS quarterback rushing record by 149 yards and still has a bowl game to add on to that.

Michigan crushed Connecticut, which won the Big East, outlasted Notre Dame on the road, and won a three-overtime thriller over Illinois, but was still unable to beat the big boys of the Big Ten, which has been the biggest knock on Rodriguez to date.

The critics say that beating up on the Indianas and Purdues of the world don’t mean anything if he can’t beat Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and most importantly, rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. That’s true, but it depends on whether your definition of improvement consists of a giant leap for mankind or stepping stones. If you expect Rodriguez to be Neil Armstrong, then you’re sorely disappointed. But if you see the slow and steady improvement as reason to believe, then you should be confident that the wins over the big boys are coming soon.

Two years ago, Michigan wasn’t good enough to beat Toledo. Last year, it could beat the MAC, but couldn’t beat Illinois or Purdue. This year, it beat Illinois and handled Purdue on the road, but still couldn’t crack the top dogs. The logical line of progression would be a couple of wins over those guys next season.

I believe it’s coming because the offense is only going to get better with another year of experience and only one departing starter, and the defense only has one way to go: up.

With the offense, let’s take a look at Oregon. Last season, the Ducks went 10-3, averaging 36 points per game. It had the nation’s sixth-best rush offense and 33rd-best total offense. It outscored the majority of its opponents, but lost 19-8 to Boise State and also lost to Stanford and in the Rose Bowl to Ohio State. In short, it was a really good offense, but still waiting to break out.

This season, the Ducks’ offense exploded. It is first in the nation in points per game (49.33), second in total offense, and fourth in rush offense. Most importantly, it’s undefeated and set to face Auburn in the BCS title game on Jan. 10.

I think Michigan’s offense has a chance to blow up next season similar to Oregon this season. Robinson will be in his second season as the starter, all the running backs will return with the addition of big-time recruits Justice Hayes and possibly Dee Hart*, all receivers return from a group that was pretty dynamic this season, including one of the Big Ten’s best in Roy Roundtree, and the majority of the line returns as well. It will be the fourth season in Rodriguez’s system, which will allow the unit to function on a higher level.

Rodriguez speaks at the Michigan football banquet (Photo by the Detroit News)

While the offense has progressed in each of the past three years, the main problem has been the defense which has seemingly gotten worse each year. But despite the decline from allowing 28.9 points per game in 2008 to 33.83 this season, I believe the defense is due to break out like the offense did the past couple of seasons.

It’s no secret that this year’s unit was riddled with injuries and youth. Just as it’s hard to win with a freshman quarterback, it’s even harder to stop anybody with freshmen on defense. One or two freshmen can succeed if surrounded by experienced talent, but when your entire defense is relying on freshmen surrounded by sophomores, you’re begging for trouble.

I’m not trying to make any excuses for the defense, but we knew heading into the season it was going to be rough. Then, the week of the opening game, the senior leader of the unit, Troy Woolfolk suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving the defense without its leader.

Next season, Woolfolk returns, and the only defensive players who played prominent roles that Michigan loses are linebackers Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh and lineman Greg Banks. Mouton was hit-or-miss this season. He was Michigan’s best linebacker by default, making some big plays, but he also tended to overpursue and take poor angles, leading to big runs. Ezeh lost his starting spot midway through the season and Banks played well at the end of the season, but his departure will allow Craig Roh to move into the end spot that he should have been in all season.

The one bright spot of playing so many young guys so prominently is the experience they gained. Many people criticized Rodriguez for playing his guys and installing his offense right from the start in 2008, but that has paid off with one of the nation’s best offenses this season. The defense will follow a similar progression in the next couple of years. If it can just improve to average next season, it should be good for another couple of wins.

This season, it’s 102nd in the nation in scoring defense. It doesn’t have to be top ten, but even if you put it at 60th, which is exactly middle-of-the-road, it would have given up 7.5 points less per game. That would have turned many of the losses this season into much closer games and would have given the offense a chance to win them.

The most popular conjecture among Michigan fans right now is that defensive coordinator Greg Robinson should be fired, but I’m not 100 percent sold on that either. The young defense needs consistency above all, since it has had three different coordinators in four years. The only reason I’d be in favor of giving up on Robinson is if Rodriguez can lure West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel away from Morgantown.

Casteel was Rodriguez’s coordinator at WVU and runs the same 3-3-5 defense that Rodriguez has Robinson running at Michigan. Casteel has kept the Mountaineers’ defense ranked highly, and this season it ranks second in the nation, giving up just 12.75 points per game. Michigan would be in the BCS national championship game this season with that defense.

All that to say, I think Rodriguez has the building blocks in place to continue getting better and to warrant another season in Ann Arbor. His players love him, he does some great things off the field, and his speech and actions at last Thursday’s Michigan football bust shows a passion that Michigan fans should revere, not mock.

Jim Harbaugh^ seems to be the flavor of the week right now, just like Rodriguez was three years ago, and he’ll most likely still be at Stanford next season. If I’m wrong, and continued progress isn’t present in 2011, then I may be willing to go after him at that time. I just don’t think the time is right yet.

_________________________________________________________________________________

*There has been some recent speculation of Hart switching his commitment to Alabama, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

^I do like Harbaugh, and if Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon does decide to can Rodriguez and hire Harbaugh, I will fully support him. But like I said above, I’m not ready to give up on Rodriguez yet because I think his best days are ahead.

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.

Forecast Friday: Michigan vs. Penn State

Friday, October 29th, 2010


The bye week came at just the right time for Michigan after losses to Michigan State and Iowa and allowing quarterback Denard Robinson to rest an ailing shoulder that caused him to miss extensive time in both of those losses.

Many in the media tried to play up a quarterback competition between Robinson and last year’s starter, Tate Forcier, but head coach Rich Rodriguez insists that Robinson is the starter. Indeed, if he is healthy enough, he could be in for the kind of monster game that made him a household name through the first five weeks of the season.

Michigan vs. Penn State
Block M logo Sat. Oct. 30
8 p.m. ET
ESPN
Penn State logo
5-2 Record 4-3
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins Youngstown St. 44-14
Kent State 24-0
Temple 22-13
Minnesota 33-21
#17 Mich. State 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Losses #1 Alabama 3-24
#17 Iowa 3-24
Illinois 13-33
36.0 Scoring Offense 20.3
281.6 Rushing YPG 128.7
250.4 Passing YPG 208.7
532.0 Total Offense 337.4
28.4 Scoring Defense 18.4
144.7 Rush Defense YPG 143.9
296.3 Pass Defense YPG 187.9
441.0 Total Defense YPG 331.7
9 Takeaways 11
12 Giveaways 12
10/3 Sacks By/Allowed 9/5
41/88 (47%) Third-down Conv. 35/95 (37%)
2/8 Field Goals 14/17
37.7 Net Punt Avg. 39

Penn State is flat out hurting. At 4-3, Penn State has given up 437 and 433 total yards the last two weeks to Illinois and Minnesota, respectively. Neither of those has an offense near Michigan’s, with Minnesota’s ranked 59th nationally and Illinois’ 88th.

While the defense hasn’t fared well, the offense has been the main disappointment for the Nittany Lions this season, ranking 82nd nationally in total offense and 99th in points per game with 20.3. Only twice this season has Penn State scored more than 30 points, in the opener against Youngstown State (44) and last week against Minnesota (33). Alabama and Iowa each held Penn State to just three points.

What has gone so wrong? Youth and inexperience is part of the problem. As Michigan found out last year, starting a true freshman at quarterback isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but Joe Paterno chose to do that with Robert Bolden.

Yet the biggest problem is that Penn State has been plagued with injuries. Five starters have been lost for the season (tackle Lou Eliades, tight end Garry Gilliam, safety Nick Sukay, receiver Curtis Drake, and tight end Andrew Szczerba), and several others, including defensive ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, will miss this week’s game. Bolden is also questionable and it appears that sophomore Matt McGloin will be making his first career start tomorrow at quarterback.

If any game is ripe for the picking it’s this one, and it’s an important one. It would make Michigan bowl eligible for the first time in three years, assuring the Wolverines of avoiding a third-straight losing season, and would end a two-game losing streak, both to Penn State, and this season.

Traditionally, Rodriguez-coached teams have fared well after the bye week during his career, including in 2008 when Michigan beat then-No. 9 Wisconsin 27-25.

While Penn State players are dropping like flies, Michigan’s bye week allowed some key players to get healthy. In addition to Robinson, Michigan should get running back Michael Shaw back this week, as well as center David Molk and tackle Mike Martin.

Michigan’s offense has struggled to find a running game the past two weeks, partly because of the stout defenses of Michigan State and Iowa, but also partly because Shaw, Michigan’s starter through the first five games, has been banged up. Vincent Smith is reliable, but not the complete back that Shaw is.

Rodriguez has hinted that freshman Stephen Hopkins may see some more playing time this week. Hopkins has looked good in limited action so far this season and is the biggest back on Michigan’s roster. Supposedly, ball security in practice has kept him from seeing the field more often thus far, but he has shown enough the past few weeks to earn more time.

Getting Molk and Martin back is perhaps even more important because each is the lynchpin of his side of the ball. When Molk went down last week during the opening drive, backup center Rocko Khoury did a decent job filling in, but had a couple bad snaps. Michigan’s offense is clearly better with Molk in the middle.

Martin also had an ankle injury that happened during the Michigan State game and was reinjured against Iowa, causing him to miss much of the game. He’s the motor of the defense and with a unit that ranks 104th in total defense, his presence is obviously needed.

So how can Michigan win tomorrow? The easy answer is to score a lot of points. Penn State’s defense gives up a lot of yards, but is 22nd in the nation in points against, averaging just 18.4. However, Illinois scored 33 in a blowout win two weeks ago and Minnesota managed 21 last week.

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent after injuries against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent recovered from injuries suffered against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Michigan’s offense ranks 17th in the nation in scoring at 36 points per game and second in total offense. In losses the last two games, the offense was still able to move the ball, but turnovers were the difference. Avoiding those same mistakes will be the biggest factor in whether Michigan wins or loses tomorrow.

Robinson should be able to rack up yards just as Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure did a couple weeks ago, rushing for 119 yards, and Minnesota running back DeLeon Eskridge did last week, rushing for 111. Another 200-yard rushing and 200-yard passing game is within reason, but 150/150 is more likely.

Defensively, Michigan will probably get pounded on the ground, given that McGloin will be making his first career start at quarterback. However, when he replaced the injured Bolden last week, he connected on 6-of-13 passes for 78 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and took some shots downfield. Penn State will likely try to get the running game going and then test Michigan’s young and shaky secondary.

A lot of talk has been floating around this week about freshman Ray Vinopal getting some playing time, if not starting, at safety. A similar experiment paid off last game when Rodriguez replaced senior linebacker Obi Ezeh with Kenny Demens and he provided solid run support and was at least a small upgrade from Ezeh. Can Rodrgiguez strike gold a second time? Vinopal has really only played in one game this season, against Bowling Green, but he made the most of that time, intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.

The freshman from Youngstown, Ohio is smart and it’s certainly worth a try against a team with such a stagnant offense like Penn State. If Vinopal doesn’t work out, nothing is really lost, since Michigan’s secondary has been horrific anyway. But if he does prove a better option than Cameron Gordon at the position, Michigan will have seen two mid-season upgrades on defense heading into the final four games of the season.

Regardless, I can see Michigan forcing two or three turnovers this week from the inexperienced McGloin.

If Michigan isn’t able to put the ball in the end zone offensively and it comes down to special teams, Penn State has the clear advantage, having succeeded on 14 of 17 field goals this season, while Michigan’s kicking woes are well-known. You can be rest-assured that Rodriguez won’t try a field goal from anywhere longer than probably 30 yards, and even that is doubtful.

Fortunately, I don’t see it being that close. Michigan’s offense will be much more efficient than the past two weeks with a healthy Robinson, Shaw, and Molk. Penn State will score some points, but won’t be able to keep up with Michigan.

Prediction:

Michigan 42 – Penn State 27

From their view…

PennLive.com declares that Denard doesn’t deserve Heisman hype because he was once in a three-way tie for the starting spot with Ryan Threet and Tate Forcier (really?); The Daily Collegian talks about a record that will probably be set tomorrow; Nittany Lines predicts a Michigan win and hopes Penn State can keep Denard to just one long touchdown run; The Philadelphia Enquirer also doesn’t know how to spell the names of our quarterbacks.

When Japanese Becomes Italian

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010


Since last week was Michigan’s bye week, I decided to take a week off to regroup and catch up on sleep. I spent Wife Day 2010 making the ultimate sacrifice: accompanying my wife and her parents (all die-hard Notre Dame fans) to the Notre Dame-Navy game in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

It just so happened to fall perfectly during Michigan’s bye week, meaning I didn’t have to draw the ire of the in-laws by wearing my Michigan garb to the game while following the game updates on the Blackberry all game as I did two years ago when I accompanied them to the ND-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the Michigan-Northwestern game.

Brian Kelly ND

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly hasn't endeared himself to the Irish faithful yet (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

This time around I threw on a shirt with the Ireland flag on it to somewhat appease them (hey, it’s Irish but not the Irish).

As I watched Navy fullback Alexander Teich shred the Irish defense for 210 yards and three touchdowns and the Notre Dame offense fail to get anything going, it really made me proud to be a Michigan fan. Not despite what we have gone through the past couple years, but because of what we’ve gone through.

Throughout the entire game, I got the pleasure of listening to Larry, Mo, and Curly, three Notre Dame alums who looked to be in their 50s and were seated right behind me, banter on about the state of the Notre Dame program. They already have the pitchfork out for ND head coach Brian Kelly. And they have already written off junior quarterback Dayne Crist, despite the fact that he was playing without his top target, Michael Floyd, calling for Nate Montana after Crist’s second quarter interception that led to a Navy touchdown just before the half.

While I was thoroughly enjoying that running commentary, I was following Iowa State’s win over Texas on my Blackberry. Yeah, that’s right, I said Iowa State’s win over Texas. A year after playing for the BCS National Championship, Texas is struggling to remain competitive to the point that some are suggesting that Mack Brown is on the verge of retirement because the game has passed him by.

I strongly doubt that’s the case, but Texas could be headed to a 7-5 or 6-6 season, which is as good or worse than where Michigan is headed this year.

A week earlier, I sat in a sports bar in D.C. watching Florida drop its third straight game, this time at the hands of Mississippi State. Yep, Mississippi State. At 4-3 and with games against South Carolina and Florida State remaining, 7-5 is likely, which would be the worst record since Ron Zook’s last season in 2004.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, USC is 5-2, but lost to 3-4 Washington and struggled to beat Virginia and Minnesota. With No. 2 Oregon on the slate this week and Arizona, Oregon State, and UCLA still to come, USC looks to be headed to a down season as well. Add in the probation Pete Carroll left behind and the violations sure to come by Lane Kiffin in the coming years, and things aren’t looking up in L.A.

With so many recent college football powers struggling this season, it’s hard not to look at Michigan’s situation and get excited about where the program is headed. Michigan was in a similar position to Florida and Texas in the late 90s when Lloyd Carr guided the Wolverines to the National Title and subsequent double-digit win seasons. But then the losses started to creep up. 10-2 gave way to 9-3, which gave way to 8-4 and 7-5. Before we knew it, a senior-laden Michigan team lost at home to Appalachian State and got trounced by Oregon the next week.

Yes, Michigan was a game away from the BCS National Championship in 2006, but Carr wasn’t able to beat the big boys in bowl games and forgot how to beat Ohio State once Jim Tressel took over. In short, Michigan wasn’t Michigan anymore. It was just an old reliable Toyota, while Michigan fans were screaming for a Lamborghini.

When Carr retired after the 2007 season, athletic director Bill Martin made the decision to transform that Toyota into a Lamborghini with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez. Japanese had to become Italian, which meant statues with robotic arms had to become dilithium with dreads, linemen had to be able to actually move instead of just get in the way, six-foot tall jump-ball receivers had to become slot-ninjas that were just as adept at run blocking as catching passes, and linebackers had to be able to move sideline-to-sideline to chase down running backs.

The general mindset these days, especially in sports, is one of impatience. We want our coaches to win national championships before we get to the pick-up window for our Big Mac. And if it’s a minute too late, we want a refund.

Lamborghini

It's only a matter of time before Rich Rodriguez has the keys to this

But as Michigan fans, we need to take a step back and examine the process, take a look at how far we’ve come in the past two-plus years. Maybe Les Miles would have turned us into an instant champion or maybe he’d be driving us crazy. It’s time to stop wondering about what if and start looking at where we’re headed.

Notre Dame is a perfect microcosm of what we don’t want to be. Since Lou Holtz left Notre Dame in 1996, the Irish have hired five head coaches, four of which have coached a game, and many are already calling for the latest to go. In eight of those 13 seasons, Notre Dame lost six or more games and is headed that way this season as well.

Michigan reached that the past two seasons, but is on pace for just four or five losses this season, which means the team has grown leaps and bounds since Rodriguez’s first season and is headed in the opposite direction of the aforementioned teams.

2008 was a shock to Michigan fans everywhere, many of whom had never witnessed a losing season. We were shell-shocked and our egos were bruised. But the product on the field was like Ichiro Suzuki trying to become a Cardinal in the Vatican. Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan trying to run the spread resulted in a dismal 3-9 record and an average of just 20 points per game.

In 2009, two Italian engineers were hired, one from San Diego and one from Deerfield Beach. They were still a little new to the Lamborghini business, so the initial model yielded limited results. Flashes of brilliance eventually stalled and the result was slightly better at 5-7, with an average of 29.5 points per game.

This season, those engineers have a year under their belt and are coming up with some great concepts, but are still trying to piece together the right formula. The engine is more precise, churning out 36 points per game through the first seven and already as many wins as last season, but the old Toyota brakes still need some work. Pads and discs are on backorder, so for the rest of this season, it’s all about seeing how far down the throttle can go.

The next three games should tell the story. Coming off a bye week, Michigan heads to Penn State, which looks to be without freshman quarterback Robert Bolden and a host of other injured starters. If any game is ripe for the picking it is this one. Illinois and Purdue follow, and there’s nothing to indicate Michigan won’t win at least two, if not all three, of those.

At 7-3 or 8-2 heading into big showdowns with Wisconsin and Ohio State, Michigan will have met or exceeded expectations from the beginning of the season, with a long shot to steal one of the final two.

If you can’t see the year-over-year progress and get excited about the near future of Michigan football, then it’s time to jump ship, because you were probably one of the poor souls booing the team off the field at halftime last week.

While it’s frustrating to lose games, if you take a deep breath and look at the transformation that’s going on with our beloved football program, it’s pretty exciting. The reason we can be excited and glad we’re not Notre Dame, Texas, Florida, or USC right now is because we are progressing; our pendulum is on the upswing.

And in couple of years, when we’re riding our Lamborghini past Ohio State’s Chevy and into the National Championship, we’ll look back and realize that those trials and tribulations only made us stronger.

Denarding the Record Books

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010


[Editor's note] This table can be permanently found on the right sidebar under Wolverine Watch and is updated immediately following the Michigan and Ohio State games every Saturday.
Denard passing

Pryor running

Denard Robinson vs. Terrelle Pryor
5 Games Played 5
5-0 Win-Loss 5-0
67-96-1 Comp-Att-Int 80-123-3
69.8 Comp Percentage
65.0
1,008 Pass Yds 1,015
10.5 YPA
8.25
7 Pass TD 12
905 Rush Yds 373
9.2 YPC 6.9
8 Rush TD 3
1,913 Total Yards 1,388
179.97 QB Rating
161.67

Five games into the season it’s apparent that Michigan’s success depends largely the health of Denard Robinson, the electric sophomore who tops everyone’s (or almost everyone’s) Heisman list. With the schedule getting tougher beginning this Saturday, Robinson will need to keep up his torrid pace if Michigan wants to avoid a Big Ten collapse like last season.

Last week, I wrote that the performance of Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner in Robinson’s absence against Bowling Green showed the position to be perhaps Michigan’s greatest strength this season. Forcier’s year of starting experience under his belt makes him a better backup than most around the country, but for Michigan’s offense to be as successful as it has been so far this season, Robinson needs to avoid the injury bug.

Robinson has won over most analysts with his five straight 100-yard rushing games and 70 percent completion rate. He has become the talk of college football to the point that when he went down after re-injuring his knee last Saturday, the sell-out crowd at IU’s Memorial Stadium cheered.

Air Force's Beau Morgan holds the FBS record for rushing yards by a QB with 1,494

Air Force's Beau Morgan holds the FBS record for rushing yards by a QB with 1,494

Classy? No. Smart? Yes. IU fans knew it was their best chance of stopping him.

This Saturday, Michigan hosts in-state rival Michigan State in a battle of unbeatens and Robinson will face his toughest test to date. But before we get into the match-up, let’s take a broader look at what Robinson has done so far, where he stands in comparison to the NCAA record book, and what he needs to do to top it.

The NCAA record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback is 1,941 by Chris Sharpe of Springfield (Mass.) College, but that’s Div. III. The FBS record is 1,494 by Air Force’s Beau Morgan in 1994.

Robinson is well on his way to breaking that record, needing to average just 84 yards per game the rest of the way (or 74 if Michigan makes a bowl game).

To break the all-time NCAA record, Robinson would have to average 148 yards per game (129.5 with a bowl game).

Through the first five games, Robinson has averaged 181 rushing yards per game, a stat that would be higher had he not been injured eight minutes into the first quarter against Bowling Green. But again, staying healthy is the name of the game.

Another record that Robinson may approach, but won’t break, is yards per game average. The NCAA record is held by Alcorn State’s Steve McNair when he averaged 527.2 yards per game in 1994. The FBS record of 474.6 yard per game was set by Houston’s Dave Klingler in 1990.

Robinson has averaged 382.6 total yards per game (431 if you throw out the Bowling Green game), so it would be impossible to reach Klingler’s FBS record. He would have to average 540 yards per game.

He could, however, break into the top 10. To do so, he would have to average 416.9 total yards per game the rest of the way (415.1 with a bowl game) – not impossible, but a tough task considering the defenses Robinson still has to face.

Iowa ranks 4th nationally in total defense, giving up just 242.2 yards per game, Ohio State ranks 5th (242.4), Penn State ranks 18th (290.4), Wisconsin ranks 25th (301), and Michigan State ranks 41st (328.6).

One record that is certainly safe is total yards, which is currently held by Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons. Symons accounted for 5,976 yards of offense in Tech’s pass-happy offense in 2003, only 143 of which were running.

Robinson’s Pursuit of NCAA QB Rushing Record
Rushing Yards through 5 Games
905
Yards Needed to Pass Morgan 589
Average Per Game
181
Average Per Game Needed
84.2
Yards Needed for All-NCAA Record
1,036
Avg. / Game Needed for All-NCAA Record
148

Currently, Robinson has 1,913 total yards, so he would have to average 580 per game, (508 with a bowl game) to break that record. I think it’s safe to say that’s not going to be touched, but he could move into the top 10 by averaging 427 yards (373 with bowl) the rest of the way.

He’s already set one record, becoming the first quarterback to eclipse 200 yards passing and rushing in one game twice in a career. The fact that he’s done it in just five games makes it that much more amazing.

Regardless of how many record books Robinson’s name gets written in or whether his name gets added to the distinguished list of Heisman Trophy winners, he has almost single-handedly put Michigan back on the map after a two-year hiatus. A win on Saturday would make Michigan bowl-eligible for the first time since Rich Rodriguez took over in 2008 and would also end a two-game losing streak against the Spartans.

For Robinson, a big game on Saturday would go a long way towards earning the Heisman. His Playstation-like numbers have been against weaker competition compared to what’s ahead and most analysts and Heisman voters want to see a performance like that against the best competition. That starts on Saturday.

Provided Robinson stays healthy, it should be fun to watch and he may earn yet another honor: the most hated player in East Lansing.

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

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


3QBs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, we have little receivers. Get used to it

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

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

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

Over/Under

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

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

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

 

I Said What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denard me!

Denard pryor Week 4

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
ESPN2
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 MGoBlue.com)

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

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.

Prediction

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.