|Tate Forcier (#5) jumps for joy after a Stephen Hopkins rushing TD.|
I expected an Iowa victory on Saturday, but once again, Michigan's defense failed in spectacular fashion. Giving up 38 points to a team with mediocre offensive personnel is extremely frustrating. I can't imagine what a team with a truly good offense - Oregon, for example - might do to Michigan's D. Some bullets:
Tate Forcier is quarterback 1b. I'm not prepared to call for the benching of Denard Robinson. Robinson is still the prototype for Rich Rodriguez's zone read option offense. However, Robinson also feasted on defenses early in the season who a) lacked athleticism or b) lacked complex defensive schemes. How many times did we see him torch defenses that committed an extra safety or two to the run game, only to see Robinson and one of his receivers beat man coverage with a throw over the top? Meanwhile, Forcier made a couple questionable throws, but provided a spark when relieving an injured Robinson late in the game. Tate finished the day 17-for-26 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 passing), and 2 interceptions. Is there any question at this point that Forcier ought to be one of the top two quarterbacks on the team? We haven't seen freshman Devin Gardner since the Big Ten season started, so I still can't understand why the coaches burned his redshirt against UConn . . . unless Gardner comes down with a mysterious "injury" or "illness" that allows him to get a medical exemption.
Denard Robinson runs the ball too much. Posters over at MGoBlog have done "studies" to show that mobile quarterbacks and pocket quarterbacks have similar rates of injury. When people have made the argument that Denard Robinson is bound to get hurt because of his small stature, some internet message boarders have scoffed. Well, my study of Denard Robinson says this:
- On 143 pass attempts, Denard Robinson hasn't suffered an injury that caused him to miss playing time.
- On 137 rushing attempts, he has suffered injuries that have caused him to miss time in 6 games.
Rocko Khoury is a solid backup. Unlike last year, when right guard David Moosman replaced David Molk at center due to Molk's injuries, redshirt sophomore center Khoury played admirably after Molk aggravated an ankle injury early in the game. Khoury had a case of the jitters early on and had some snap issues, but those seemed to get solved pretty quickly.
Vincent Smith should be relegated to backup duty. I know I'm a broken record, but at least Rich Rodriguez finally figured out what I've been saying for awhile: Smith isn't a short yardage back. Hopkins was the short yardage back on Saturday, and he responded with 8 carries for 38 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a goal line touchdown (pictured above) in which he actually ran through a tackle. Meanwhile, Smith had 10 carries for 39 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and a critical lost fumble on Iowa's 14-yard line. For the record, Smith also had 2 catches for 22 yards and 1 touchdown, so he wasn't exactly useless. But that's my thing with Smith: if he's lined up in the slot or catching passes out of the backfield, I'm okay with him being out there. But he shouldn't be leading the running backs in carries.
Tate Forcier and Darryl Stonum are in love. When Denard was in the game, Darryl Stonum got visibly frustrated with having to dig out a couple errant passes from hitting the ground. When Forcier entered the game, it seemed like the QB was looking for #22 on every play. Stonum ended the day with 9 catches for 97 yards, most of which came after Forcier's entrance into the game. Forcier also hit Junior Hemingway a few times and Hemingway ended the day with 9 catches for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.
Run the ball, damnit. It would have been nice if Michigan's offense could have kept Iowa off balance by running the ball late in the game. I know they were running short on time, but passing on every down is extremely difficult. Once Forcier entered the game, the playcalling seemed to want him to sling the ball all over the field. Maybe it's just me, but I thought Forcier's second interception was the result of the lack of a running threat. Like I said, the clock might have dictated the playcalling, so I don't have a huge problem with the call. But it sure would be nice if a dangerous running back (hopefully Demetrius Hart in the near future) could make defenses think twice before getting to their drops.
Michigan's defense is atrocious. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about the defense. We all know which unit most needs to improve for Michigan to have any chance of success. Michigan failed to come up with key defensive stops and allowed a mediocre running back to run for 142 yards. And while Iowa's passing offense isn't prone to huge plays, quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 71% of his passes. My frustration reached its apex when JT Floyd aligned himself inside of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos to take away the slant and force the receiver to the sideline. Johnson-Koulianos deked outside, Floyd jumped him, and Johnson-Koulianos waltzed untouched into the endzone after catching - what else? - a slant. I don't know if that's poor coaching or poor execution, especially because Floyd made the same mistake a couple drives later (although it didn't go for a touchdown).
Jordan Kovacs is oh so close to being good. On a corner blitz in the first quarter, safety Kovacs jumped a fade route near Michigan's end zone. If Kovacs were a half step faster, the ball would have been picked and returned about 100 yards for a touchdown. But since Kovacs is who he is, the play resulted in a PBU. Kovacs played well for the most part, but his physical limitations will continue to make me wish brain transplants were feasible. If Justin Turner had Kovacs' knowledge and work ethic, Turner would be an All Big Ten safety.
Kenny Demens played well. He still did some frustrating things, but Demens showed more promise than Obi Ezeh has shown this year. I'm still not entirely sold on Demens as the savior at MLB, but he made some strides against Iowa.
Special teams were atrocious, too. Walk-on kicker Seth Broekhuizen has beaten out redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons. Gibbons must be horrible, because Broekhuizen had a field goal blocked for the second week in a row. He also booted at least two (three?) kickoffs out of bounds to give Iowa great field position. That's effing ridiculous. And if you've been wondering why William Campbell hasn't earned more playing time on the defensive line, maybe that blocked field goal gives you an inkling - Iowa defensive tackle Broderick Binns got lower than Campbell and blew open a gap in the protection. At least Will Hagerup played well and averaged 50+ yards a punt. I wonder if he can kick off.