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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Air Force

September 13, 2012


The Good

  • Dual Threat Denard – I said it last week, and I’ll say it again.  Denard Robinson is NOT the same QB people have been watching the last couple of seasons.  His command of the offense and ability to throw the ball have taken a huge step forward.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t without faults, but anyone suggesting that he be benched, or moved to another position, just isn’t paying attention.  To begin with, I don’t care if it is Air Force, 400+ yards and 4 TDs is something I’ll take every week.  His two long TD runs were excellent and mostly due to his ability.  Through the air, he had several very nice throws, including both touchdown passes.  His final stat line doesn’t even do him justice, as his 14-25 really should’ve been 18-25 due to a few drops, including his lone interception.  We can’t rely or expect Denard to give us 400 yards every game, but 300+ in most games isn’t unreasonable, especially if he can consistently throw for over 200 yards per game.
  • Jake Ryan – Jake Ryan’s day started by being awarded Michigan’s 2nd ever “Legends” Jersey, as Bennie Oosterbaan’s #47 came out of retirement and was given to Jake Ryan.  It ended with Ryan absolutely dominating the last series of the game, basically shutting down the Air Force offense all by himself.  Ryan had a passbreakup in coverage, a sack, and a batted pass on 4th down to seal the game.   For the game Ryan finished with 11 tackles, including the tackle for a loss on the 2nd to last play.  He wasn’t perfect, having trouble staying on his feet early in the game due to the Air Force cut blocking.  But his 2nd half performance and game sealing plays both justified his choice for the Legends Jersey, and solidified my uncomfortable mancrush.
  • Devin Funchess – I know it’s only one game, but Devin Funchess may be the most impressive Tight End Michigan has had since the days of Jerame Tuman.  I can guarantee he’s the most impressive true freshman tight end in a long time, and possibly ever.  No freshman Michigan Tight End has had 100 yards receiving in a game ever – Funchess did it in Game #2.  What’s exciting about Funchess is that he’s a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.  Guys like Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, and Anthony Gonzalez have made a lot of money playing on Sunday’s doing what Funchess has the potential to do.  I’m not saying he’s a future NFL Hall of Famer, but his size and speed create very difficult matchup problems for a lot of teams and will be an asset this season.

The Bad

  • Clock Management – Last week, like most of you, I spent some time questioning the play calling regarding Denard.  This week’s armchair quarterback debate had to do with the abysmal use of time during the last few minutes of the first half.   Somehow Michigan managed to run only 3 plays in 50 seconds despite having two timeouts, and didn’t take their first timeout until there were only 8 seconds left on the clock – and the clock was stopped!  What could’ve been a golden scoring opportunity before the half was thwarted because apparently Brady Hoke though that timeouts carried over until the second half.  Hopefully just a hiccup in clock management, but something to keep an eye on too.
  • Run Denard Run – How does Denard Robinson run for 218 yards and still get criticized for not running enough?  Easy – I bet he left another 50 yards on the field waiting for receivers to get open or throwing passes when there were clear running lanes open. As Woody Hayes once said, only 3 things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad.  Contrast that with Denard Robinson’s running ability, and it’s ridiculous that he isn’t tucking and running more.  The problem is that he doesn’t see the field quite well enough yet (and maybe never will thanks to his height), and so he isn’t always aware of when to run.  The most glaring example of this was on his lone interception of the game.  Even though Vincent Smith should’ve caught it, it never should’ve been thrown.  Denard could’ve easily scampered for 10 yards to pick up the first down had he realized it.  It’s important to run through your progressions and offense, but it’s equally important to keep moving the ball downfield.  Denard’s legs are our best chance to do that – the sooner he realizes that, the better.

The Ugly

  • Linebackers not Named Jake Ryan – Against Alabama, Kenny Demens appeared to be replaced by halftime.  This week, I’m not sure he lasted that long.  Brady Hoke tried to blow it off by saying Joe Bolden had experience against the triple option in high school, but that seems like a lame excuse to me.  What you need to know is that when the game was on the line in the 4th quarter,  James Ross and Joe Bolden were on the field, and Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan were not.  Unfortunately, despite some decent stops late in the game, neither Ross nor Bolden were that good either.  Both showed promise as they are true freshman, but they are not long term solutions for a team trying to win the Big Ten in 2012.  Whether it was missed assignments, overrunning plays, or just poor tackling, all of the linebackers – including Jake Ryan – struggled on Saturday.  The belief was that the linebackers could be a strength for this team, but unless they pull out of this funk, it could be a long, long season.
  • Ball Carriers Not Named Denard Robinson – Since only one other player carried the ball besides Denard, this category could’ve been called Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Fitz did not have a good day in his first game back from suspension, only picking up 8 yards on 7 carries.  It was ugly, it was bad, but it wasn’t all his fault.  To begin with, the line didn’t open any holes for him.  Beyond that, only getting 8 carries is a tough way to find a rhythm and build momentum, as running backs like to do.  Denard had the hot legs, so it was smart to give him the carries.  If Fitz doesn’t find his mojo against UMass this week, then we can worry.
  • Rush Defense – The last category should’ve really been named Michigan Ball Carriers Not Named Denard, because Air Force had plenty of success on the ground, amassing 290 yards, the majority of which came from back Cody Getz (133 yards), though QB Conor Dietz wasn’t a slouch either, picking up 63 yards.  Okay, let’s face it – the Michigan rush defense was bad.  The question we have to answer is whether or not this was just a case of not being able to stop the triple option.  The option is so gimmicky, you rarely ever see it – so either you get lucky and figure out how to stop it, or you get gashed by it.  Most teams that play Air Force get gashed by it and we were no different.  Michigan was poor at tackling which didn’t help, and failed to contain the edges well enough.  They were relatively solid up the middle, except on several QB draws on 3rd down.  The “do we suck?” litmus test will be next week.  If UMass and former Michigan running back Mike Cox can light us up, we’ve got serious problems.  If we shut them down as expected, we can look forward to ND to see how we really stack up.  If a team that is averaging 40.5 yards per game against UConn and Indiana moves the ball on us, it’s going to be a very, very, very long season.


One Comment leave one →
  1. September 14, 2012 3:46 PM

    A look at the tape from Saturday might show that AF just happened to have the run blitz on most of the time Fitz got the ball. Also, triple option offenses run up the rushing numbers against a lot of good defenses, I wouldn’t worry too much about 290 yards on the ground. Not getting off the field on 3rd is a problem and vaguely reminiscent of The Greg Robinson days.

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