|Is it just me or does Michael Shaw look like a prototypical football player? Here he scores|
on a 2-yard touchdown run. (Image via MGoBlue.com)
This first bullet almost called for the backup QB. Not permanently, of course. But if Denard Robinson continued in the second half the way he played in the first half, I would have been asking for Devin Gardner to get a shot. Gardner has played well in his increasing role, and Robinson threw three horrible interceptions in the first half. Robinson's first half looked like this: 10/18 passing, 178 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and several of those completions were bad throws where his receivers saved him (the bomb to Junior Hemingway, the TD to Steve Watson, etc.). In the second half, Robinson redeemed himself on 7/8 passing for 159 yards with zero touchdowns and, most importantly, zero picks.
Mike Shaw provided a little bit of a spark. Neither of Michigan's first two running backs had much of a day. Fitzgerald Toussaint had 14 carries for 25 yards and couldn't punch the ball in on two goal line opportunities. Vincent Smith had 3 carries for 8 yards. It looked to me like Shaw's speed was too much for the Northwestern defense. He beat the Wildcats to the edge a couple times, rushing 6 times for 25 yards and 1 touchdown, plus making 1 reception for 12 yards. I was impressed with the Wildcats' rush defense and tackling.
That's not the Dan Persa I remember. I think Michigan got a little lucky that Persa still has his Achilles on his mind. It seemed like there were a few opportunities for Persa to run where he decided to throw the ball instead. He completed 32/44 passes, but a lot of those were bubble screens that were essentially sweep plays and easy completions. Other than one 39-yard bomb over Blake Countess, the Wolverines kept everything in front of them.
Kenny Demens had his best game of the year. Demens hasn't been as productive this year as I expected, but he's still been a solid player. This game was his best, though. He had 10 tackles, including a sack, and did a good job of chasing down wide receivers and crossing routes in space. A lot of middle linebackers (Obi Ezeh, for example) would have been left in the dust or would have missed the tackle on those smaller players, but Demens is so strong that if he gets his hands on someone, that person is going to the ground.
Michigan needs to review the option. I was somewhat surprised that Northwestern didn't run more option. They had quite a bit of success with it in the first half, and I thought Michigan did a poor job of defending it. They didn't have guys in position to make plays, they were tentative when they got there (Jake Ryan), or they just failed to square their shoulders and make the tackle (Carvin Johnson). The bubble screen was effective and it's a safer play, so maybe that's why the Wildcats didn't run the option as much.
Congrats to Steve Watson. Watson stuck around for five years, played tight end, outside linebacker, defensive end, and now tight end again . . . and finally caught his first collegiate pass on a 9-yard scoring play where he adjusted well and got his hands underneath the ball on a poor throw from Robinson. That had to be exciting for him.
The defensive line is improving. I wish William Campbell weren't already a junior, because that kid is close to turning into a player. He's going to have only one year as a starter at Michigan, despite the fact that he was totally unneeded in 2009 and Rich Rodriguez wasted him in 2010, too, by burning his eligibility at defensive tackle and then flipping him to guard halfway through the year. Overall, the defensive line had 14 tackles and 2 sacks.
It's horn-tootin' time. Okay, not really. My predictions from Friday weren't close to being 100% accurate, but I did say that Persa would have 325 total yards (he had 326) and that the final score would be 38-24 (it was 42-24). I keep forgetting to review my predictions in these wrap-up posts, so here's where I do that. On the other hand, Denard didn't carry the ball 12 times (more like 25), Jeremy Gallon didn't score on special teams (but he did on offense!), and Northwestern's running backs didn't average 2.5 yards a carry (more like 5.5). Also, there's a picture of Denise Milani wearing a tight dress, so I think that was a good move on my part, too.
I typically like Pat Fitzgerald, but . . . he seemed like a bit of a weirdo during his halftime interview with Jeannine Edwards. He was all rubbing his head and using strange vocal inflections. I guess that's what adrenaline does to some people, but he seemed a little high strung.
Taylor Lewan false started but nobody called it. Lewan has been penalty-free so far this year, I believe, but he should have been flagged for jumping the snap. He probably won't be so lucky next time, and I'm guessing Michigan State's coaches will alert the refs to look for that next week; Lewan did it a bunch last year, too.
Speaking of the referees . . . Michigan got lucky a few times on Saturday night. Brandin Hawthorne's interception looked like an incomplete pass to me (his hands were under it, but I thought the ball clearly moved when the nose hit the ground), Jeremy Ebert's fumble was about as close as it gets (I think it was a fumble but probably wouldn't have been overturned if he had been called down in the first place), and Jordan Kovacs probably should have been called for a facemask (his right hand was okay, but it looked like his left hand pulled on the bottom bar). Of course, Northwestern was holding the s*** out of Michigan's cornerbacks and safeties on those bubble screens, so maybe the penalties evened out.