Sunday, October 30, 2011

Michigan 36, Purdue 14

Fitzgerald Toussaint had a career best game with 170 yards and 2 touchdowns

Fitzgerald Toussaint is hitting his stride.  Finally healthy after two years of long-term injury issues, Toussaint is showing what he can do.  He had 20 carries for 170 yards, including a spectacular 59-yard touchdown run (Michigan's longest run of the year).  He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season.  Perhaps the best part of Toussaint's game is the way he finishes runs.  Despite not being particularly big, he always seems to churn his legs for an extra couple yards after contact.  His yardage total was the best by a Michigan running back since Michael Hart had 215 against Eastern Michigan back in 2007.

Where have you gone, Michael Shaw?  In this, his senior season, Shaw is on pace for his fewest career carries.  His career low is 42 (in both 2008 and 2009), and despite being mostly injury free this season, he has only 22 carries through eight games.  Shaw has been a big play guy this year and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, but for some reason, the coaches haven't put their faith in him.  Even freshman Thomas Rawls (13 carries) is getting almost  as many carries as Shaw, and Rawls probably should have redshirted with so many guys ahead of him.

Mike Martin finally showed up.  Martin had 7 tackles and 2 sacks on the day, one of them for a safety (which probably should have been negated due to grabbing Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush's facemask).  He's been a little bit of a disappointment so far this year with his lack of production, but maybe this is a sign of things to come for him.  Eight games into the season, Martin only has 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks, so 25% of his tackles and 80% of his sacks came in this one game.

Not a fan of the Denard/Devin combo this time.  At some point Devin Gardner needs to run the base offense, whether Denard Robinson is in the game or not.  It seems like Robinson is usually used as the decoy rather than the ballcarrier in the two-QB formations, but defenses are ready for it at this point.  They know that when Denard is in the game, something funky is going to happen.  So instead of committing fully to the distracting part of the play, everyone stays home, watches for the double pass, etc.  To catch a defense truly off balance, offensive coordinator Al Borges needs to line Robinson up at running back or wide receiver and actually run a base play out of that formation.  Hand the ball off to him in the I-formation, throw a slant or a hitch to him, etc.  The halfback pass from Vincent Smith might have worked if not for the fact that Robinson was in the game and the defense was being extra careful.

Maybe Matt Wile should still punt.  On 12 punts this season, Will Hagerup is averaging 34.8 yards per punt and has put four of them inside the 20.  On 14 punts this season, Matt Wile is averaging 41.1 yards per punt and has put four of them inside the 20.  Hagerup had a good season last year and looked like a potential All-Big Ten punter, but he's been disappointing so far this year.  Michigan is averaging just over three punts per game, so the difference between the two is around 21 yards of field position per game.

Desmond Morgan looks good.  He seems to be steadily improving after looking lost early in the season.  Morgan earned the start over Brandin Hawthorne (whose tackling efforts in the MSU game were disappointing) and responded with 9 tackles to lead the team.  I thought it would take Morgan a little more time to adjust to playing linebacker in college, but here he is starting as a true freshman.  High school quarterbacks just seem to catch on a little quicker.

Courtney Avery's game of firsts.  Speaking of high school quarterbacks, Avery got his first career interception when he caught a deflected pass, and Avery got his first sack (well, half of a sack, shared with Craig Roh) when he helped chase down a scrambling Robert Marve.  That interception gives Avery a share of the team lead in picks, since nobody else has made more than one.

I've had about enough of J.T. Floyd.  He seems to talk a fair amount of smack for not being very good, and he could very well be Michigan's fourth best corner.  I would take Blake Countess, Courtney Avery, and a healthy Troy Woolfolk over Floyd.  Floyd's poor tackling effort late in the game cost Michigan seven points when he stood and danced with O.J. Ross while Ross waited for some help from a Boilermaker blocker.  After the two danced for what seemed like an hour, Floyd got blocked and Ross slipped into the end zone for a touchdown.

I'll take 7-1 at this point.  Michigan has already matched last year's win total with four games to go.  It's a pretty tough four-game stretch as far as the Big Ten goes, but all four games are winnable.  The two most dangerous remaining foes, Ohio State and Nebraska, have had their own issues.  Regardless, this team is on the right path and seems headed for some good November games.  I like the direction Michigan is headed.


  1. will want to double-check your post header, stat ;-)

  2. @ Royal Wulff 1:03 p.m.

    Yeesh. I was a moron this morning when I wrote it. Late nights and early mornings are catching up with me. Thanks.

  3. Didn't Avery intercepted Minnesota and returned that pick for 6 points?
    Also, I'm glad with the defense, I'm not gonna criticize J.T. Floyd, he's better than before and I think it would be greedy to ask for more than this out of this defense, I'm proud of them.

  4. @ RioTHaN 1:29 p.m.

    I believe that was a fumble recovery returned for a TD by Avery.

  5. As you know, I am not fond of giving Devin more reps at QB, aside from garbage time. There is no evidence that he is a much better passer, and we certainly know he is not as good a runner.

    The various Denard/Devin formations are not very reliable, simply because Denard doesn’t block or catch passes. Until they can make the defense take him seriously as a wide receiver, lining him up on the outside is just a gimmick.

    Putting Denard at tailback has similar problems. Unless he can pick up blitzes, the defense will assume run every time. In that case, Denard might as well just take the snap himself, and skip the extra, superfluous handoff.

  6. Averages don't mean much for punters; they depend heavily on field position. Many of Hagerups kicks at MSU were facing a short field. Have you seen many punts where he could kick away go for less than 35 yards?

  7. Hey Thunder, I'm starting to wonder.

    Were you a high school Quarterback?

  8. Which highschool do you coach for Thunder?

  9. @ YouKnow 5:35 p.m.

    I'm not telling.

  10. I'm liking the strides our new/old coaches are making. We're nowhere close to where we can be yet, but every Saturday I'm seeing more open field tackles, more kids in position to make plays, and (lately) more plays being made. The coaches aren't afraid to mix up the personnel to get the best players out there either, and the lineups feel less and less like a stab in the dark, mostly because of the results we're seeing I suppose. I like the adjustments they make from quarter to quarter, also due (I guess)to the results we're seeing. Nice to see freshmen making such a big impact, sad to see them outplaying some of the upperclassmen in a way. Can't wait to see the next step the D takes.

  11. I am completely with you on a couple of these points. The idea that Devin only gets to run the "trick" play has run its course. He is going to have to learn to run the whole offense if we are going to keep the defense honest when he comes in. Much like Denard was used at first when he would come in for Tate. Same premise.

    As for JT Floyd, he makes me nervous when he sees the field. He never seems to be in the right place and always a little behind the play. I have also noticed his ability to run off at the lips without backing it up much. He is truly a liability for a kid who should be much further ahead than the guys behind him.

  12. Hoke has said numerous times that JT has been playing very well. Just about every commenter save you seems to think he is the best or the 2nd best corner on the team. I'm sorry, but it just looks like you have some bias against Floyd, similar to your bias for Cox (no pun intended).

  13. @ Anonymous 8:49 p.m.

    Floyd just doesn't make many plays. I really don't care what Brady Hoke says publicly; you have to realize that coaches aren't 100% honest when they speak in public. Sometimes they're supporting kids going through a rough time, sometimes they're pumping kids up, sometimes they're taking them down a notch or two, etc. Floyd is better this year than he has been in the past, but that still doesn't make him good.

  14. I used to think Floyd was our second-best corner, but the MSU game seriously exposed him. He's not very fast and is a godawful tackler. That's fine if you're a tight end or a fullback, but not if you're a corner.

  15. As anonymous at 3:00 or so noted, quite a few of Hagerup's punts have been of the Lloyd Carr variety (around or inside the opponent's 40-yard-line), so his average looks a little worse than it should, probably.

    Still, happy to have Wile around ...

  16. I realize this will seem like I'm just being argumentative, but really... I thought Shaw had the best run of his career this game (I think it was a 15 yarder or so (not his TD). Anyway, I hadn't seen him run this hard and look this superior to Smith as a runner, well, ever. But the epic Smith v. Shaw debate is moot now. Toussaint is clearly the guy. Haven't seen a Michigan RB look that explosive in a long long time. That 57 yarder was brilliance.

    Not much point in playing Shaw. The top 2 work well together as a combo and Rawls is the 'development' guy. No reason to give Shaw snaps unless someone is hurt. In other news, good to see Hopkins growing into the FB role.

    As for the comments about Devin and the base there anything about the WR motion that they typically use Denard for that precludes it from being a 'base' play? Don't they handoff to Denard enough to keep defenses honest? I don't get the problem here. The defense went nuts on the Smith screen pass. The only reason it didn't score was Smith being a little slow on the play and Molk not effectively blocking in space.

  17. Floyd has developed nicely, but I agree with Thunder - he's still mediocre. I thought his trash talking was good though - it was nice to see him get fired up and be competitive. For a guy with meh talent, you need to see him either play smart or play motivated - or both. I thought he had a solid game overall. Knocking him for what happened with 20 seconds left in a blowout seems a little silly.

  18. Has there been an explanation of why Fitz got only two carries against MSU (e.g., he was dinged up)? His performance against Purdue showed once again what has been apparent all season - he's Michigan's best back and quite good. He's not a short-yardage back (though he's decent at it), but there's no reason, beyond injury, he shouldn't get at least 10 carries in every game. Except for Northwestern, he's been v good to great every game.

    I also agree completely with the Devin/Denard usage: putting Devin in for basically trick plays added nothing. I'll also await actual statistical evidence before I believe he's actually a better passer than Denard (being able to throw better, tighter spirals doesn't count).

    I can't figure out this coaching staff's use of offensive players.

    On the other hand, the defense was solid. Granted, we're talking Purdue, but a nice overall effort.

  19. @ Anonymous 10:23 p.m.

    Even when Hagerup has had lots of room, I don't think he's kicked the ball very well.

  20. @ Lankownia 11:58 p.m.

    The defense reacted just fine on the Smith play. He had a guy right in his face when he threw the ball, and the DB was all over Gallon.

  21. @ Rob Pollard 12:41 a.m.

    I haven't seen any explanation for why Toussaint only got 2 carries against MSU. It appears to have just been the coaches' preference.

  22. @Thunder,

    Sorry, I was talking about the throwback screen pass to Smith, not the pass attempt by Smith. That was one where Denard lined up in the backfield and both he and Gardner went right and took most of the defense with them. No jet sweep action - but there could have been.

    My point is that they don't have to run a base set to make Denard effective as a non-QB - they just have to give him the ball sometimes. He's an effective decoy, but not always. You have a point that the defense isn't going to be shell-shocked by something like a RB pass in that situation, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  23. @Rob Pollard

    I read he missed blitz pickups against MSU...don't remember where though...but that may be why he was pulled. It is curious.

  24. The idea of what is a trick play and what is a gimmick is subjective. Reverses were once considered trick plays but now they're pretty much constraint plays or ways to get your playmakers the ball. The zone read was a gimmick. 4-wides was a gimmick. I see no reason why a package of plays based of Denard as a backfield threat (off motion or not) can't work. If you put him at RB he has to do other RB type things like blocking, which is a waste of time teaching him. If you put him at WR he has to catch, while his strength is running it. He also has to deal with CBs trying to jam him.

    The motion thing seems like an ideal compromise to me. You can give him the ball, or not, but defenses still have to put at least one guy on him.

  25. Fitz sprained his ankle against Northwestern. That's why he didn't play much against MSU. His ankle was heavily wrapped.

  26. @ Thunder

    The reason they weren't running as much as they should have against State, is because either Borges or Hoke, I think it was Borges, said they were stacking the box so much, it would've been stupid not to throw.

    ... With our Andrew Luck of a quarterback, Denard....