Monday, September 12, 2011
The Day After, We Move On
Posted by Jeff
Waking up this morning after arguably the most exciting college football game in Michigan's history and the 10 year anniversary of inarguably the worst attack on American soil was sobering. While I woke with the same smile I wore to bed, it quickly vanished after watching the memorial services at Ground Zero. As a New Yorker, one who has been directly affected by 9/11, I reflected on how that tragic morning changed my life forever, gave clarity to what's really important in this world. As much as I'd like to think it's college football sometimes, it's not. I know that. But as a Michigan fan, I couldn't help but also wake up wondering whether Craig Roh can truly play rush DE at 280 lbs when Jibreel Black really improved his run defense. These opposing thoughts--one grounded in reality and the other in fantasy--reminded me why the day after is never as bad or good as you think. I will never forget those who perished on 9/11. I will never forget the thousands of service men and women who have fought and died for a safer and more tolerant world. And I will never forget the countless military personnel who continue to serve and protect simple freedoms I take for granted like being able to enjoy a college football game. I will never forget last night thanks to them. We can move on because of them.
So. About last night...
More later this week but some reactions from the game after a 3rd, yes 3rd, watch:
Denard. 11/24 passing for 338 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs. How is this stat line even possible? That is over 30 yards PER COMPLETION. 36% of his completed passes were TOUCHDOWNS. 21% of his completed passes--if you count picks the other way--were to the other team. And we won.
Denard! For the 2nd year in a row, Denard accounted for well over 90% of Michigan's total offense: 446/452 yards or 98.7%! The backs combined for a total of 10 yards. I'm beginning to think this game should just be renamed Denard vs. Notre Dame. There's plenty to criticize in his game, particularly his deep ball (or lack thereof), but the man led this team to victory. Who cares if it happened to be with smiles and underthrown balls? (Don't answer that)
V. Smith TD was a great playcall but terrible blocking. Please stop calling it great blocking or a "convoy" the endzone. Excellent playcall by Borges but Lewan missed an easy block on the outside. Ricky Barnum spun around like a top. At least Roundtree had a good seal to allow Smith to escape down the sideline but that play was mostly because of Smith's agility, balance and vision.
Back to no backs. So much for the backs breaking out last game. Shaw looked terrible and the Hopkins fumble machine returned. Again, 10 total yards from the backs. Please get healthy Fitz. And fast.
Jibreel Black will start over Craig Roh for the rest of the year. I had a strange feeling before the year started that Roh was either going to have a breakout season or totally bust. He just looks slow off the edge, extremely ineffective in both the run and pass. Black played most of the game with what looked to be much improved run D; interior line was more of the issue. Roh was a hero, if you can call it that, on a plagued defense during the Rodriguez era but he looks uncomfortable in his own body, too heavy for the position. I think he needs to slim down.
Notre Dame's last TD), breaking off his man to undercut Rees' go-to route intended for Floyd. That is coaching, coaching, coaching: recognition of the situation, adjusting during the game and calling the perfect defense.
RVB did work. I don't expect him to grade out too well in the UFR considering some of those long interior rushes but he made a few TFLs count. Recovered the late Rees fumble too.
Ryan and Hawthorne. I joke about Ryan's fanaticism but this is the 2nd game he's been the most effective player from the LB corps to get to the quarterback. Him and Hawthorne made some key 3rd down stops in the 4th quarter to hold off what should have been Irish scoring drives. Given the lack of depth at SAM and WILL, I expect both to see significant playing time moving forward.
Don't hate on J.T. Floyd. You try covering a 1st round NFL draft pick when your defensive coordinator leaves you on an island because he needs both safeties to pressure the quarterback. J.T. obviously got burned several times but him, Avery and Woolfolk (when available) fought the entire game. J.T. looked especially bad on Michael Floyd but he also made the key PBU that saved a TD. This secondary isn't getting better any time soon but they don't get discouraged either.
I could talk about this game forever but that's all I have right now off the top of my head. My final thought, which I'll probably elaborate during the week, is this: this team is weird. Awesomely weird. How Hoke/Mattison/Borges are able to win with Rodriguez's players is a tribute to not only their commitment to their philosophy/style of football but also their open-mindedness to adapt to the personnel. Out of 120 teams, Michigan ranked 2nd in the nation when it came to returning starters. This is last year's team, hungry to win but (for now) equally confused. Somehow, someway, Michigan is winning in all the same ways through completely different avenues, if that makes any sense. If it doesn't, it doesn't matter. Nothing about yesterday, or this season, has so far.