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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Bowling Green

September 29, 2010

When you win 65-21 and rely on your 2nd and 3rd string QBs for 50 minutes, there is plenty of Good to go around.  Lots of praiseworthy work from Saturday, but a few players and issues deserving of red ink too.  Without further ado….

THE GOOD

  • Three Headed QB Monster – As far as team QB performances go, Saturday was about as good as you can get.  Robinson, Forcier and Gardner combined to be 23/26 for 255 yards and 2 TDs through the air.   They also ran for 184 yards on 15 carries, including 3 more TDs.  What’s scary is that the passing numbers could have probably been even a little bit better, had Junior Hemingway not dropped a 49 yard touchdown pass in the 2nd Quarter.  Beyond the gaudy stats, we learned that although D-Rob brings another dimension to the offense, ‘ a pretty effective machine even with Forcier and Gardner running the show.  Tate was methodical with his precision like passing and good decision making.  And Gardner showed an excellent touch on the deep balls that’s even more impressive considering his arm strength and throwing ability were a slight concern when he got to campus.  While Robinson is the guy that makes me believe we can beat anyone, what I saw on Saturday was two backup QBs that could both lead us 7 or 8 wins, if not more.  There is nobody with a better QB situation in the Big Ten.  Considering our QB situation even 14 months ago, that’s a gigantic step forward for this program.
  • The Offensive Line – I’ve raved about the offensive line before, and I know it was only Bowling Green, but the rushing numbers are so ridiculous that it deserves special mention.  56 carries for 466 yards is an absurd rushing total, no matter how bad the opponent is.  And most of the credit should go to the offensive line.  5 different players ran for more than 50 yards, and the team averaged 8.3 yards per carry.  Even subtracting the wizardry of D-Rob we still ran for 337 yards – an average of 6.6 yards per carry.   While all the linemen were impressive, as I mentioned on Friday, Taylor Lewan is a star in the making.  Upon rewatching the film, I didn’t see Lewan miss any blocks, and he mauled most guys.  He also apparently has a mustache tattooed on his finger that he uses to start conversations with girls.  The interior of the line also opened up huge holes – and it felt like we could get 4-5 yards whenever we wanted, maybe more.  With the exception of the QB position, the offensive line is by far the deepest and most impressive position group so far.  It won’t be the last time I say this, but Greg Frey deserves a standing ovation.  Like the QBs, this position has gone from a huge weaknesses in 2008, to perhaps our strongest unit overall.
  • The Offense – Beyond the QBs and the Offensive Line, the entire offense needs to be recognized for Saturday’s effort.  I know it was only Bowling Green, but the offensive numbers from Saturday were absolutely staggering.  721 total yards.  65 points. 297 yards in the 1st quarter. 466 yards rushing. 88% completion percentage.  We have yet to face a good defense, but I’m not sure it matters. This offense is efficient, explosive, exciting, and powerful.  When Rich Rodriguez was hired, it was because he was an offensive innovator who was going to revolutionize the Big Ten.  We may not be there yet, but we’re well on our way.  Center David Molk may have said it best while looking at the yardage totals on the field after the game – “We are a F*****g train and we cannot be stopped”.  Yep, that about sums it up.
  • The Return of Jonas Mouton – As expected, Jonas Mouton returned to his early season form on Saturday.  He tackled well, had a nice interception when dropping back into coverage, and registered a sack as well.   Besides Mike Martin, Mouton was by far the most active and noticeable player on defense, and did more than enough to move himself out of my doghouse.  He needs another similar effort against Indiana before he’s allowed back inside though.
  • A Blowout – As I lamented last week, one of the worst parts about the tight game against UMass is that the backups didn’t get an opportunity to play.  Saturday’s thrashing gave us a chance to see a lot of young guys in action – and several of them performed very well.  In particular, I was excited to see Fitzgerald Toussaint with a couple of nice runs, and I thought Mike Cox ran hard too.  On the defensive side, Kenny Demens looked pretty good at middle linebacker, but after an extended stint on the field in the 3rd quarter, didn’t get much playing time later on.  The other player worth noticing was backup safety Ray Vinopal, whose late interception marked the first time a Michigan safety made a break on a ball and stepped in front of a receiver to make an interception since Bill Clinton was President.  I’m going to completely overlook that he fumbled the ball after the interception, making our safeties responsible for 50% of our 4 turnovers this season, because we haven’t had a ball hawking safety since Marcus Ray, and we desperately need one.  Carvin Johnson is on his way back from injury, but don’t be surprised to see Vinopal get some snaps as well.
  • Improved Defense – After last week, there were plenty of naysayers convinced this defense was going to be an achilles heel all season.  Saturday’s defense performance reassured me that while this defense will never be dominant, they can be competent, which is a huge step in the right direction.  Holding Bowling Green to only 32 yards rushing was impressive, as was the total yardage of 283 yards.   While 21 points to a team like Bowling Green is still probably a touchdown too much, with our offense, we could go unbeaten by holding every team to only 21 points, so I’ll take it.  We will face offenses much better than Bowling Green, but Saturday was important to give the defense confidence that it could stop an average offense.  The defense will absolutely be a rollercoaster for the rest of the season – enough talent to be successful, but not talented enough to win games all by itself.   The effort on Saturday was far from perfect, but it was leaps and bounds better than the UMass game, and hopefully bodes well, or at least better, for Indiana.
  • Hype Machine – If you’ve been reading any of the national and local papers, its pretty clear that people are enjoying having an exciting Michigan team to talk about.  ESPN did a feature on Denard Robinson on GameDay, and YouTube is filled with hype videos about Denard, and the team.  Although we were 4-0 last year, this year feels different.  There is a heightened buzz around the program this year; that something special is happening.  And as good as Tate was last year, people weren’t making videos like this:

Whether the positive publicity continues will depend on whether or not we keep winning, but it’s nice to be in the positive headlines for once.

THE BAD

  • Fragile Denard – While Denard Robinson may be unstoppable, he is not invincible.  And Saturday’s game underscored that.  While thankfully his injury wasn’t that serious, it is a strong reminder that if your offense requires your quarterback to run 15-20 times a game, you better have some good backups.  The good news is that Michigan does have some very good backups in Forcier and Gardner.  The bad news is that as good as Forcier and Gardner are, they aren’t the game changers that Robinson is.  While I was always of the belief that D-Rob could make it through the season unscathed, his relative size compared to some Big Ten linebackers has me a little concerned.  Seeing Tate and Devin step in without missing a bit on Saturday eased those concerns a little, but if we want to finish the season the way we’ve started, it depends on a healthy Denard Robinson.  I’m guessing you’ll see him skip out of bounds a lot earlier to avoid hits over the next couple of weeks.
  • Obi Ezeh – Unlike his partner in crime Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh did not have the comeback game I was hoping for on Saturday.  I spent some time on Sunday re-watching the game, and sadly, my assessment from last year is still dead on.  Obi Ezeh is the world’s first human Shamwow.  It seems like every play ended up with Obi absorbing a block, and not being able to break away.  Sometimes he helped out by moving the blocker towards the hole and slowing down a running back long enough for a teammate to make a tackle, but that’s what a defensive lineman is supposed to do, not a middle linebacker.  At this point, I have to believe that Kenny Demens – who looked decent in his time on Saturday, has to be a better option.  A middle linebacker is supposed to be a playmaker, always in the middle of every play, not absorbing blocks and ending up as a filler piece, and Obi is definitely the latter.  I hate to continue to keep picking on Shamwow, but its clear that it’s just not going to happen for him at this point – we need to look at other options.
  • No Jack Kennedy – While the 3 headed QB monster was stellar on Saturday, I was terribly disappointed that sophomore walk-on QB Jack Kennedy didn’t get a chance to see the field.  Had Ray Vinopal not fumbled away his interception, we probably would have gotten a chance for Jack to get on the field with 30 seconds to play.  There’s nothing special about Jack as a player – but it’s no secret I have a fondness for players with interesting names.  While Fitzgerald Toussaint is by far our most creative name, Jack Kennedy is our most prestigious.  Unless we have a walk-on linebacker named King George III that I’m unaware of, Jack Kennedy is the guy.  The best part about Jack Kennedy is that if he’s playing, you know we’re celebrating.  I hope Jack sees the field each of the next 8 games.

THE UGLY

  • Dumb Penalties – In a 65-21 blowout, there isn’t a whole lot of “UGLY” to speak of.   One area of concern though is the penalties.  While we did a great job of minimizing penalties against UMass and UConn, we struggled big time against ND (8 for 99 yards).  Those poor numbers returned on Saturday with 7 penalties for 58 yards.  What’s worse is that some of those penalties were just inexplicably dumb.  In particular, David Molk decided that the best time to take a cheap shot at a defensive player was with Kelvin Grady on the 10 yard line about to run into the end zone to give us a four touchdown lead.  I’m all for playing aggressively and sending  a message, but taking 7 points off of the board is about the dumbest thing you can do.  That drive eventually stalled, and five minutes later our lead, which should have been 28-0, was 21-14.  Ultimately it didn’t matter, but against a better team it could have.  Some of the other penalties were head scratchers as well – my favorite was an illegal participation penalty that occurred when two players ended up on the field wearing the same number.  If Rich Rod would stop giving out multiple numbers, that could never happen.  Instead, we have 30! players with double numbers on the team.  Nevermind the possibility for penalties, I’m tired of hearing uninformed announcers tell me that Devin Gardner made a tackle, when it’s really Brandin Hawthorne.
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