Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Well, That Was Fun

Note: Sorry this is so late. I'm trying to make a better effort to get these out on Sunday. All other post-games are linked on MGoBlog here.

Do it again! Do it again!

Imagine each noise by the father as a TD and I was that baby on Saturday. There were probably even enough TDs to cover the entirety of this clip.

I mean what else is there to say? We played pretty damn well. It's hard to ask for much more from the offense, defense and Gibbons' leg. And while you can argue the Gophers aren't exactly stiff competition, it's still football being played out there. Michigan took care of business when they should. They did it emphatically. They did it convincingly. We haven't been able to say that for awhile.

It's hard not to look at the mitigating factors though. Minnesota looked like a glorified scout team--a perfectly polished bye week for Michigan, specifically Denard, to work out kinks and feel confident going into back-to-back road tests. If you were to assemble the ideal team to accommodate Michigan's weaknesses, it'd probably consist of a true-freshman QB and a secondary comprised of 2 offensive players, a guy who missed all of 2010 due to injury and a recent transfer from a random Minnesota state FCS school. Outside of playing for the oldest trophy in college football, there's very little substance left in this so-called rivalry. At times, I felt bad for Minnesota; they have 2-10, perhaps 1-11, written all over them. Michigan was never that bad over the last 3 years but we can at least identify with the feeling of a new head coach, injured quarterbacks, and depleted secondaries. It's not fun.

There is too much good in this game to find dark spots but I will try my best. I always do. Find dark spots that is--not try my best.


Air Denard.
After back to back weeks of studying Denard's passing game, and often wanting to find the nearest sharpest object, I imagine this week will be much more fun. His passing line finished at a clean 15/19, 169 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. That's after starting the day 11/11 (!). The difference? A combination of easy throws, short routes and receivers not dropping anything. There were still a few "OH NO DENARD" moments, like when he rolled left and threw a jump-ball to a well-covered Hemingway, but they were overshadowed by improved footwork and accurate throws. I wanted Borges to have Denard come out throwing and they obliged. Though this performance isn't going to exactly strike fear for in the rest of Big Ten, it at least closes the gap where Denard's arm is part of his quarterback play.

Ground Denard. 6 carries for 51 yards and a TD but more importantly, the 4th most frequent ball carrier behind Fitz, Rawls and Shaw. Interestingly enough, Denard never ran the ball in the 2nd half. As good as it is to get a game in for his arm, it's even better to get a game out for his legs. The carries will obviously increase with better competition, as Denard is still by far our best rusher, but saving him from unnecessary punishment is something Hoke has been able to take advantage of and Rodriguez could never afford.

The backs. Smith with football's version of a cycle: passing, rushing, and receiving TD. That's good. His versatility combined with Borges' creativity should be fun to watch for the rest of the year. Fitz and Rawls both did some work, granted with holes I could roll through horizontally. I thought most interesting was Shaw getting some meaningful carries. People forget: not too long ago, he was right up there with Fitz as the season starter. I think Fitz has solidified his spot and Rawls has nowhere to go but up, so it's hard to see Shaw gaining ground in the depth chart, but it's nice to see that there are some viable (and healthy) options back there. Even Hopkins looked sound as McColgan's replacement.

On board with Blake.
Yeaaaaa, so BWS declared it in his debut and TTB is on board this week. Count me in too. Not only is Blake pushing Avery and Floyd for starting time, but he's shown to have some real fire and competitiveness in him which I love from a true freshman. I mean check this out against McKnight (this is the same play Will Campbell comes alive):

He's all "Yes I'm a true-freshman and yes I'm about to be all up in your grill." And then he backs it up. Very, very excited for his future.

Will Campbell coming out party? I've been a little lower on Campbell compared to others, even when he's had some decent performances in the past. I got the feeling people saw one positive play and let their desire for him to be good immediately cloud their judgement. Having said that, if there was any sort of coming out party for Campbell, Minnesota was probably it. He had his Branch/Morelli moment and looked much more consistent in run defense. I still think he has a ceiling this year and that ceiling is being serviceable at best. But that's also all we really need from him this year. Him being reliable provides a huge boost for the rest of the D-line and helps the rotation tremendously.

Borges' playbook. I guess the biggest complaint coming out of Saturday was Borges opening up playbook too much, especially the unnamed diamond formation. At first, I was a bit displeased too but it's really only 1 formation that we run 3-4 plays out of that set; defenses will have to prepare for it, yes, but it's not like Borges can't think of anything else creative. I was more upset about the trips, Smith-to-Dileo run fake TD--that probably could have been saved for a TD we really needed and were struggling to score in the red zone. Overall, however, I've been pleased with how far Borges has come and (relatively) how little he's tampered with last year's potent offense. 58 points is 58 points. All those shotgun counters, misdirection screens--those are welcomed wrinkles that add to this offense, not subtract. Those under center roll outs though, they're another story.

Where is Roundtree?
So Roundtree's involvement in offense (or lack thereof) is becoming increasingly worrisome. Outside of his TD-winning catch against Notre Dame, he's been targeted less and less each week. He dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers this week, which doesn't help his cause. Denard and Roundtree had great chemistry last year but it seems like Gallon, Dileo and Koger have become much more reliable targets. Stonum's absence, I think, plays a huge part because it would bump Roundtree to the slot where he's much more comfortable. Roundtree isn't exactly a corner or fade route kind of receiver. He's still blocking effectively downfield so it's good he's keeping his head up and still playing hard out there.

The future is bright. We got a nice glimpse of our starting backfield in 2013: Devin Gardner and Thomas Rawls. And I must say: the future is bright. Gardner also seems like the perfect quarterback to transition Borges' playbook from Denard to Morris. He doesn't quite have Denard's legs--who does?--but he's a tall quarterback with a big arm. Gardner still has accuracy and read issues--he threw one pass right to a Minnesota defender--but I'm not going to nit-pick against a backup right now. His redshirt better hold up.


  1. At some point will looking for and then commenting on dark spots become a mostly pointless exercise? I sure as heck hope so.

    Regarding Roundtree's lack of production, I'd say it's less worrisome and more remarkable. If his production is replaced by Gallon, Hemingway, Koger, RB production, then there's really nothing to worry about. One way he could ensure that his production improves is by actually catching some of the balls that are thrown his way.

  2. i'm all for dark spots having zero effect on the outcome of the game.

    yea i agree re: roundtree. the situation is compounded by the fact that the few times he's been thrown the ball, he's dropped them. the one last week literally hit him in the numbers and he knew it. he's probably the player that's seen the steepest drop in production, through some fault of his own. i hope he keeps his head up though. opportunities will come and none bigger than that ND catch.