Monday, October 3, 2011

Hear the Lamentations of Their Women

What is best in life?
To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

Michigan 58, Minnesota 0

Well...that was awesome. Meaningless, but awesome. That was an old school Michigan blowout, like the ones you'd watch on ESPN Plus (memory lane, you are there now) back in the day, where nothing was ever in doubt and The Law was that Michigan would average a billion yards a carry under a grumpy Michigan sky. It's always the ideal of overindulgence, and if anything it's a reminder of how far we've come since 2008 when beating Minnesota on the road was considered an upset. It's the kind of game you imagine taking your kid if you have one--or a hypothetical future kid if you don't--and filling in the gap left by the general uncompetitiveness of the game with an afternoon-long tutorial on Michigan traditions. When the game is never in doubt, you can truly focus on the things that make a Michigan gameday what it is. It is good, wholesome fun for all insofar as an epic beatdown of another entity can be considered wholesome fun.

Of course, I don't think anybody needs to be told that Minnesota is a horrendous football team, and about as much should be gleaned from this game as the EMU game or other cupcake games played in the past. It's strange saying that about a conference game but the bottom tier of the Big Ten this year is truly horrific; the triumvirate of Minnesota, Purdue, and Indiana would probably not even compete in the MAC. However, there's nothing wrong with a good, cathartic beatdown every once in a while. People should enjoy this game and move on to the next one, because this team is nowhere near invincible and it can lose if we come to Evanston unprepared next week (whether Persa is ready to go or not).*

Perhaps the greatest storyline of all is the two-QB set that Michigan debuted, featuring Gardner taking the snap and Denard getting the handoff and option pitching or throwing back across the field to Gardner. This was the offensive equivalent of Michigan's offense flashing some leg, and you've got to imagine opposing defensive coordinators trying to file this one away into the recesses of their subconscious as much as they can because the thought of Devin and Denard on the field at the same time terrifies them...and it should. At the very least they're distracted by it; the "why show that stuff against Minnesota" is not a particularly good one. Random message board guys always clamored for a set that would put Tate and Denard on the field together, and it looks like those guys are finally getting their wish. Or, maybe not. This could just be some standard gamesmanship with the State game--the most important game against the Spartans in who knows how long--looming on the horizon two weeks away. I'll be honest, I didn't think Borges had something like that in him; Gorgeous Al knows what he's got and it's nice to see some outside-the-box thinking. Trust the coaches indeed.

*Who am I this game over and over again and extrapolate wildly, folks. Don't even worry about Northwestern, just skip ahead to State. Trust me, there are no repercussions.

/books ticket to New Orleans

The Offense

To quote Dave Chappelle's Silky Johnson character re: the Minnesota defense: "Bucknasty, what can be said about that suit that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan Minnesota's looks bombed-out and depleted." Minnesota took the phrase "resistance is futile" to heart and made it their standard operating procedure. The game we watched on Saturday was essentially like an NCAA game you'd play on a Junior Varsity or Varsity difficulty level...Minnesota's defense was that bad (I mean, they gave up one less point to us than EMU and SDSU combined). So, it's hard to really come away with anything overly positive because we essentially stared down the college football defense equivalent of the Maginot Line.

Other than the fact that we scored 58 points against a Big Ten team, there were a couple legitimate positives to store away for future consideration. Denard had a solid game throwing the ball, completing 15/19 passes for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The obvious question going forward is: in what proportions can we attribute this uptick in efficiency to Minnesota's abysmal secondary, Denard's arm abscess, and a general improvement in Denard's ability to stay calm and hit the open man? We won't find out till next week when Michigan faces a team that isn't completely terrible, but what happened is obviously better than the alternative of Denard not picking apart a secondary that is probably worse than Michigan's secondary ever was at any point in the RR era. Read that sentence over again and think about that.

Although Michigan didn't really connect on any long balls, they obviously didn't need to and it's probably better that they didn't (save that stuff for when it counts). Denard's longest passes of the day were the rainbow to Hopkins, and 16 and 19-yarders to Hemingway and Koger respectively, and the 18-yard TD strike to Dileo. I don't remember Michigan ever trying to test Minnesota deep. I'm not complaining, but eventually Denard is going to have to complete one of those wide open shots down the field that have been falling just out of the reach of Roundtree et al. It'll probably have to come against State, because they actually appear to have some semblance of a good defense and odds are we are not going to be able to methodically run the ball down the field over and over again. We'll need some quick strikes at some point (e.g., the Stonum TD against State in '09).

Elsewhere, Michigan didn't seem to miss Ricky Barnum too much; Schofield has filled in alright as far as I can tell with my untrained eye, but we will need Barnum back for the meat of the schedule. It's not even worth analyzing much about the line's performance because of the quality of the opponent, but in any case they played well and opened up holes that Denard and Co. could probably run through unscathed as 70- year-olds. All you need to know: Michigan ran for 363 yards on 48 attempts, which is good for 7.6 YPC. Fitz Toussaint eclipsed the 100-yard mark on only 11 carries and continued to flash the quickness and general dartiness that is making him an MGoBlog favorite. If it isn't clear by now that Fitz is the undisputed #1 then it should be. He's no Steve Slaton, but I think we can continue to hit paydirt with the Denard-Fitz zone read down the road when we'll need to go to lean heavily on the remnants of ye olde spread offense playbook.

The receivers were finally able to get something done, what with Denard "completing passes" to them and whatnot. Junior Hemingway finished with 5 receptions, doubling his season output to date. Although it's unlikely that he meets the perhaps unrealistic expectations that had I had for him this season, he should continue to pick up his product in concert with Denard. We'll need have to have his best game of the season against State. In addition, Koger and Dileo each pitched in another TD; Dileo's production, while not exactly copious (5 receptions for 62 yards on the year), has been a welcome surprise, especially since he wasn't exactly a highly touted guy and seemed destined for a career of reliably fielding punts. Gallon has locked up punt returns, so it's nice to see Dileo get on the field in spite of that. If his [Dileo's] spectacular one-handed catch in the spring game is any indication, he seems to be a sure-handed guy that we can count on to catch the always reliable Denard step up and throw down the seam play.

The Defense

So, am I allowed to say that Michigan's defense might not be just mediocre or slightly below average (like many hilariously--or not so hilariously, I guess--pined for before the season), but actually kind of good? I mean, if I say "Michigan's defense is good" then a bunch of ninjas won't kick through every window in my house with laptops open to highlights of Michigan against Penn State, UMASS, and Mississippi State last year...right? Okay, here goes...Michigan's defense is straight up good, no qualifiers. Okay, nothing's happened so I think the Universe took a look and gave me a "I'll allow it."

What can you even say? Michigan held the Gophers to under 200 total yards, including holding them to a paltry 2.9 YPC. Mike Martin is Mike Martin. Mike Martin will always be Mike Martin. They made as well come up with a constant to be used in physics to represent his play, because it is consistent and world-destroying. RVB looked good as well, and Roh continues his upward climb from his forgettable first couple of outings. It seems that the whole mono thing is true, and I honestly can't even imagine how difficult it must've been for him to play with that, let alone do much of anything at all. He's been a disruptive force the last few weeks; a productive Roh (with some liberal rotation with Black) makes for an experienced, downright solid+ Big Ten defensive line. This is probably what the 2008 defensive line could have been with, you know, competent defensive coaching.

Michigan also continued its turnover producing frenzy in snagging two fumbles. The turnover margin thus far has been nothing short of amazing; we are the anti-Notre Dame, and that's pretty much why we're 5-0 and they're not. On a somewhat cynical note, this ridiculous run cannot possibly continue, and when Denard et al turn the ball over in the future against teams like MSU, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, etc. it will be crucial that the defense is ready to absorb those miscues. How good does it feel to think that we can maybe sort of rely on the defense to do something?

In other general bits of information floating about the atmosphere of Feeling Good About Things: Roh, RVB, and Black each pitched in a sack, and Michigan held Minnesota to 0/11 on third down. 0/11. This is honestly getting too much for me to handle so I'm just going to end this right here before I start asking "is this real life?" over and over again. After seeing third downs converted with remarkable regularity against us as a student, this newfound competence is refreshing.

The Special Teams



In other news, Hagerup booted a pair of fairly unimpressive punts in his season debut, but that's honestly the biggest complain any Michigan fan can conceivably have about the game. That's something wonderful.

Miscellaneous Minutiae

  • Blake Countess! Two PBUs on the day and a number of routes ran for receivers equals another data point to add to the pile of "reasons why we might already have an awesome player on our hands." 
  • Denard with only six carries was probably in the top three of things I enjoyed about this game. If possible, I'd like to see him carry a reduced running load next week as well, but if it comes to it then we've gotta do what we've gotta do. 
  • Michigan pitched a shutout for the first time since 2007 Notre Dame, back when I was just a naive little freshman. Memories. 
  • Kickoff coverage could still use a little work, even taking into account Minnesota's deluge of ST penalties. Nick Hill and Keshawn Martin will be strong tests of our ST coverage when we make the trip to EL. 
  • Helmet numbers? I don't think they look bad, per se, and they're definitely more throwbacky then the jerseys we wore UTL, but you just don't mess with perfection. It's not a huge deal, but I'd rather they not be there. 
  • Cam Gordon, still out...I know Ryan has been playing well and all but if he comes back at all this year--which I'm assuming he will--then I wonder what the odds are of him being the starter by the OSU game. 
  • Martavious Odoms...still no receptions on the year. Sad face. 


  1. Two players that you didn't mention that played well: Kevin Koger nice touchdown and nice stiff arm and Will Campbell who played a significant amount of snaps and dominated at times.

  2. I mentioned Koger briefly but you're's great to see him getting involved in the red zone and it's even greater to see Campbell starting to become a regular contributor. If he keeps improving then who knows, the defense might maintain their current level of play against the stronger part of the schedule.

    Really, though, it's hard to find a player that didn't play well on Saturday haha.

  3. Nice Blog BTW read it on a regular basis.

  4. Historical nitpick: the Maginot Line wasn't necessarily a weak defense. It was the area not protected by the Maginot Line that was vulnerable.

  5. Anonymous: Thanks...good to know somebody does!

    John: You're right, but the Line itself has essentially become a symbol of ineffective defense as much as the name "Greg Robinson" has. But yes, you are correct...I'm always receptive to a good historical nitpick.