Sunday, November 27, 2011

Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

Denard Robinson made people look silly on this 41-yard touchdown run.
(image via CBS)

This was Denard's best game.  Ever.  I take back all the negative things I ever said about Denard Robinson.  He's spectacular.  I want to have his children.  In all seriousness, though, the guy was 14-for-17 for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns with zero interceptions; he also carried the ball 26 times for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The only flaw in his game was the fumble (put the ball in your outside hand!), but he made throws in this game that he hasn't made consistently in his entire career - his 28-yard pass to Drew Dileo was thrown perfectly.  That was a great way to cap the regular season.

The replay official was Woody Hayes, Jr.  There was no way in hell that Fitzgerald Toussaint's touchdown run late in the fourth quarter should have been reversed.  It was called a touchdown on the field and, at worst, there was no good angle to reverse the call.  Officials are supposed to have "indisputable evidence" to overturn calls, and if it takes 10 minutes to review the play, then it's obviously disputable.  That's not the fault of the officials on the field - it's the anonymous guy in the booth.  That guy needs to be reprimanded by the league.  Anyway, that play would have put Michigan up by 9 points (presumably 10 after the extra point) with about two minutes remaining, and Ohio State only had one timeout left.  It would have taken a miracle for OSU to score 10+ points in under two minutes; all it would have taken is a little bit of luck for them to overcome the six-point deficit that resulted.  Luckily, Courtney Avery saved the day.

What happened to Michigan's defense?  I absolutely did not expect Ohio State to have that much success offensively.  I figured Braxton Miller would get a good chunk of yards by scrambling or on designed runs, and he did (16 carries, 100 yards, 1 touchdown).  Michigan shut down running back Dan Herron (15 carries, 37 yards, 1 touchdown).  But there were wide open receivers running all over the place, and Miller actually hit some of them nicely.  I can't even just pick on one guy - Blake Countess, J.T. Floyd, Thomas Gordon, Jordan Kovacs, and Troy Woolfolk all got beat on deep passes.  Miller finished with 14 completions in 25 attempts for 2 touchdowns and just the 1 interception at the end of the game.  I was high on Miller when Rich Rodriguez was recruiting him out of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, OH, and he's going to be tough to deal with for the next few seasons.

The game experience was awesome.  It was great weather for being the end of November.  The tailgaters and frat houses were partying hard.  (Thanks to the tailgaters who let me join them, by the way.)  I only saw one classless encounter between a Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan, and both of them were drunk and stumbling.  The only downer the entire day was that the Union hockey team was sitting near me and kept complaining that people in front of them were standing.  Usually "down in front!" is reserved for old people, but these 19- to 22-year-old kids were trying to rest their legs for this afternoon's game against the Wolverines, I guess.

Fitzgerald Toussaint made dudes look silly.  If you are one-on-one with Toussaint in open space, you might as well lay down and take a nap.  He had 20 carries for 120 yards and 1 nullified touchdown, and that was a pretty solid defense he was up against.  Between Robinson and Toussaint, Michigan had 46 carries for 290 yards.  Yowzers.

Ten wins.  I expected the offense to be pretty good, and they've put some points on the board.  I expected the defense to be solid but unspectacular, and they've been on the verge of spectacular.  Aside from giving up 34 points to a mediocre Ohio State offense, the defense has been awesome this year.  I did not expect Michigan to end up with ten wins on the season, and they still have a chance for an eleventh.  The coaches and the players have done an excellent job overall and have played with a lot of hustle and intensity.  It's been a great season, and Michigan seems to be on the upswing after a few down years.

Go Blue!


  1. This is exactly why I asked earlier if your position on Denard would change depending on this and the next performance.

  2. Scary to think if Miller would have connected on some of those deep throws, especially on their last drive.

  3. 34 points was a lot for the defense to give up, but things like that happen in rivalry games, and they did make the big stop at the end. Nobody expected Michigan to get 44 -- er, 40 -- either.

  4. 10 OSU points were due to turnovers deep in our territory, leaving 24 on the D.

    Many points were due to our DBs making big mistakes in coverage. Other than the big mistakes, the D played pretty well.

  5. I believe this had to be Miller's by far best all around performance. He's going to be a problem going forward.

  6. IMO UM won playing bad (on D) and ohio lost playing their best game of the year, it feels good

  7. IMO a lot of people (most likely not including Touch the Banner) have forgotten that OSU almost *always* has a roster full of good players. This year is no exception. As well, Braxton Miller had more experience prior to Saturday than he did when Sparty played them (lucky b*stards).

  8. Michigan definitely got the best OSU team that has played this season. They may have lost a few to injury on their defense, but for only the second game of the season none of their players were suspended. But Michigan has also benefited from playing OSU so late in the season. The defense has made some big strides over the course of the season, as have Denard and Borges.

  9. Good post - glad you got to see it in person Thunder.

    Great game from the offense - Denard, Fitz, the OL, the senior WR. Awesome performance and Borges seemed to put it all together as well...though I do wonder what will happen to the 3 TE packages when his 3rd best guy (and maybe 2nd) is a walk-on or true-freshman.

    So...Dileo and Gallon - anyone still worried about WR depth next year?

    Defense was a mixed bag. Martin and especially Van Bergen played better than I expected. Stepped up and lead by example. Way to go out fellas. Roh was meh, as he's been all year, but Black seemed to step up. Miller made Morgan look silly several times and Ryan seemed tentative - didn't make plays like he has in the past. The secondary made a lot of mistakes across the board, but Floyd especially seemed to struggle. No real surprise there, but had hoped he had taken a bigger step forward.

    Overall...a great outcome, but damn was it stressful at the end. If Miller hadn't whiffed so badly on that long pass attempt on 2nd down it could have been a soul-crushing loss, but ultimately he came one play short and our guys didn't. I figured it'd be close but this game truly came down to one play (though it probably shouldn't have.)

    I'm less worried about Miller long-term than some because - like Denard and Pryor, I think the accuracy issues will still be there throughout his career. AND, he's going to have to go through a major coaching chance...

    I expected 9 wins, but it's HOW we got to 10 that seems especially satisfying: winning the last 3 with two classic games (ND and OSU) in Ann Arbor. I believe it's the most satisfying season since Tom Brady was QB. And probably the most satisfying game since Lloyd's last.

    Go Blue!

  10. @anonymous @9:36 PM. i disagree. the talent level at ohio state is considerably down from where it's usually been IMHO. posey is the only offensive weapon that would truly scare me. herron is vastly overrated IMO.


  11. I think a point everyone is missing is that Ohio COMPLETELY discarded the offensive playbook it had established over 11 games. Very much like Lloyd's last win over Florida when Michigan went spread, Ohio had nothing to lose by accepting this proposition:

    "We cannot beat Michigan running the ball, which is our entire offense. Nebraska and Illinois couldn't beat them doing this with similar QB's and a similar desire to run.

    Michigan will be selling out against the run. Our season is shot, we are expected to lose, we will try and prove them wrong that we can't air it out."

    In a game with something on the line for Ohio (title game, BCS, etc.), there is no way they embrace this strategy as it was equally as likely to result in an implosion as success, and the risk/reward would have been unacceptible.

    Michigan single covered receivers and stopped the run. Ohio chucked the ball deep...and kept chucking the ball deep; in the first series, from the end zone, to win the game - and, as a result, they almost outfoxed Mattison...except that Miller couldn't do it consistently, which is what Mattison was expecting all along.

    I think the game would have been a blowout if our corners had just kept everything in front of them. If Miller had to throw 25 passes over the middle and to the sideline, he offers up a pick or two and a lot of misses.

    The only failure in the Defensive gameplan was the corners letting receivers behind them. Otherwise, it's 40+ to < 20.

  12. A thrilling win (too thrilling, thanks to that ridiculous overturn of Fitz's TD - I'd like an explanation of that from someone higher up on that stupidity) and a great game by Denard, with an able assist from Fitz and the WRs/TEs (there were no drops, correct?)

    On defense, though, I see there are a couple of apologists on this board, e.g., "the D played pretty well." Giving up 34 points against on offense starting a true freshman QB (no matter how talented) playing on the road is terrible. Beyond Braxton missing the TD pass on the last drive, there were also two more wide open (and I mean WIDE open) TD passes that he biffed - shudder to think, OSU could have readily put up 50 pts on Michigan. OSU does NOT have a good offense this year and it was disappointing to see the defense get completely outclassed, but I suppose they were due and some of Michigan's inexperience (e.g., Desmond Morgan got crushed on those QB draws) came into play.

    The only disappointing thing, overall, was this was as bad an OSU team as Michigan has seen in the previous 10 years and it will probably be another 10 years or so until they are this bad again, and we only beat them by 6 points. The team is going to have to play much better (on defense and punting, at least) to beat them in the Horseshoe next year.

    But that's next year - until then, we'll be in a New Year's Day Bowl, and they'll have to evaluate whether they want to go to the Pinstripe Bowl or the Pizza Bowl, so nuts to them.

  13. @ Rob Pollard 11:18 a.m.

    I agree that the team is going to have to play better to win next season, but keep in mind that this is Ohio State vs. Michigan. Anything can happen in this rivalry because there's so much emotion. Ohio State had some fairly narrow wins in the last five years (14-3 in 2007, 21-10 in 2009) against teams that were very week (Henne and Hart were severely banged up in 2007, and we were very young and horrible on defense in 2009). OSU was at full strength, essentially, except for the fact that Pryor left early; and frankly I'm not sure that Pryor would have played much better than Miller did.

    OSU will be better on offense next year, but I'm guessing Michigan will be stronger on offense, too. Defensively, Michigan will take a hit along the defensive line, but they will likely be better at LB and DB. It should be a good battle next season, too.

  14. @ Rob Pollard.

    Disagree with you here. As I mentioned right before your post, Ohio completely changed their offense. Go back and watch one of their games. This offense in no way resembled anything they had done before.

    Look at PSU's use of the wildcat last week against OSU. Anytime you surprise a defense who has prepared for a team based upon style and tendency, you get rewarded. But it's harder to do that you think because you don't have the reps (game or practice) to execute reliably. It's risky.

    OSU's offense was effective in the same way a desperate fighter with some skill is effective. They came in with a puncher's chance and were throwing bombs all day long. In the end, it may have cost them the game, who knows? Perhaps an OSU team that ran the ball more could have done some things with the clock and controlling Michigan's offense that we can't predict.

    The corners played poorly, yes. Beyond that, the plan was sound.

  15. Since last year, they have not had Denard make the distinction between inside and outside hand. The ball goes to his left (non-throwing) hand once he takes off.

    Side note: I think from last year to this year, his left arm is much stronger resulting in fewer fumbles.

  16. Dan, you're reaching. The "plan" matters, but so does the execution. Of course it's up to players to make plays but re Mattison: it's his defense and both plan and execution are ultimately his responsibility - if we give him tons of credit when things go well (e.g., Nebraska, Illinois), then blame comes when the D performs poorly.

    And I don't care what OSU changed up, it's just plain bad to let opposing WR's streak by the D and get at least 3 yards separation for 30 yard plus passes. That happened at least six times for various reasons (blown coverages, people stumbling, or just plain getting beat). That happened in both the first and second half - plenty of time to make an adjustment; we were just lucky Braxton missed.

    Re Thunder: I agree that in rivalry games anything can happen, but this OSU team was a legit 6-6 team. They were truly mediocre and even then, not really at "full strength." They not only had a freshman QB on the road, but tons of injuries (e.g., their LBs, which is, not take anything away from our offense, part of the reason we were able to run on them so effectively) and we replacing something like 8 or 9 starters on defense (pre-injury).

    I'm not saying we should have won 40-10, but it's a little disconcerting we couldn't take more advantage of them being as bad as they'll likely ever be in a generation. Of course, a win is a win, but it just worries me that they will very likely be much better next year. But that's next year, and from this point forward, I'll worry about that then.

  17. @ Rob Pollard 1:37 p.m.

    Michigan is coming off a stretch of 15-22. The Wolverines were adjusting to new philosophies on offense and defense. There are two former walk-ons starting on defense (Kovacs, Heininger) and two true freshmen starting (Morgan, Countess). I agree that Ohio State was down this year, but so was Michigan as far as talent/experience go. I guess I don't see a reason to be pessimistic going forward. Yeah, Shazier started in place of Andrew Sweat...but Desmond Morgan started in place of upperclassmen who couldn't get it done, and Shazier was a much higher rated recruit.

    Ohio State is down in some ways, Michigan is down in some ways, and Michigan won.

  18. I think now it's safe to say that Kovacs was an under the radar diamond in rough, I agree that Michigan has a slightly less talented team, but to keep referring to Kovacs as a Walk on (or former Walk on) is diminishing his accomplishments a bit in my opinion, even if he was a 4 star coming out of high school he'd have surpassed the hype of all of those Michael Williams of the world.

  19. @ Anonymous 3:43 p.m.

    Kovacs was a walk-on. It's a fact. Yes, he's outperformed 3-stars and 4-stars of the world, but that's the case for just about every walk-on who earns playing time in the Big Ten. Heininger and Brink were walk-ons, too, and they've outperformed 3- and 4-star guys who are currently sitting on the bench.

  20. Kovacs is a walk-on like Mike Hart is a 3-star.

    There are facts and there is reality - where context matters. Walk-ons who play because of need and absence of ability (e.g. Van Slyke and Simmons) are different than walk-ons who play because they earned it. Kovacs would start on most teams in the conference. Brian Griese and JJ Watt ask you to reconsider 'walk-on' as a blanket indictment in regard to ability and talent.

    Heininger, too, may just be 'a guy', but he's a 5th year senior who beat out 4 star recruits, and had broken into the rotation a couple years ago too. His presence let Black, Campbell and others be depth players.

    The weakness of this defense is 1. WLB and 2. the Safety beside Kovacs. Safety isn't even that bad considering Gordon and Woolfolk have both proven to be, at worst, serviceable. The talent in the secondary is less than in years past, no argument, but name another Michigan DL with this level of experience.

    Personnel and talent fits within the lower range established during 'Loyd Carr's Michigan'. The number of NFL players produced may be slightly less, but that's offset by the benefit of experience earned via the lack of depth over the last few seasons. The silver lining of the gray clouds disappearing in the horizon.

  21. Lank,

    Kovacs would start on most teams in the conference...based on THIS year's play. He's markedly improved. He's been the cleanup guy for a few years (due to DOOM at most other positions), but I would only agree with your statement this year.

    It's difficult to evaluate weaknesses of this defense on paper because Mattison likes to rotate the dickens out of his lineup. We could have two man-coverage shutdowns at corner and it would still be a potential weakness depending on nickel coverages and rotations.

  22. @David

    I agree with that about Kovacs, but he's a junior. It's a rare player indeed that would start as a sophomore for most teams in the Big10. Even Graham and Woodley took a few years to develop.

    As for rotating - I don't notice Mattison rotating any more than is typical. If anything, I'd say the opposite. He does the standard thing with rotating linemen, otherwise he sticks to his starters through most of the game. The only regular situational substitution was pulling a DE for a nickel back and using Ryan as a rush end instead. I'm not even sure we used a dime package ever.

    Woolfolk and Gordon swapped but I think that was to keep both happy, not a strategic thing. Otherwise, most of the back 7 played all game.

  23. Lank,

    Corner was a bad example. Linebacker, especially earlier in the year with a healthy Beyer and Hawthorne playing decently, would be a better example.