|"Your chances of tackling me are slim." - Fitzgerald Toussaint|
(image via MGoBlue.com)
Thank goodness for Fitzgerald Toussaint. Michigan's offensive line didn't really run block worth a damn, but Toussaint consistently created a few yards - or more - out of absolutely nothing. Chris Spielman said the words "Barry Sanders" in reference to Toussaint. Don't get me wrong - Chris Spielman is kind of a moron - but he might know a thing or two about Barry Sanders. Sanders was the best running back in the history of football, in my opinion, and Toussaint does have a similar ability to stop and start suddenly. Channeling my inner Fred Jackson, Toussaint has the cutting ability and mindset of Mike Hart . . . but he's faster. I love the way he's running the ball.
Nebraska looked awful. Part of the reason the Cornhuskers looked awful on offense and special teams was due to Michigan's improved defense, but for the most part, they just didn't play very well. Taylor Martinez throws like a girl and is careless with the football. Their kick returners couldn't hold onto the football. Seriously, two fumbled kickoff returns in the same game? It looked like Nebraska had their returners study film of Boubacar Cissoko and Martavious Odoms circa 2008. And it might have been an entirely different game if anyone but Nebraska's defensive tackles could catch the ball, because the receivers dropped several passes and so did their defensive backs.
Obligatory discussion of Denard Robinson. This might have been Denard Robinson's most complete game of the year, and yet . . . it still left me wanting. Robinson is more effective running the offense out of a spread look, and it's about time Al Borges relies mostly on the spread and only a little on his pro-style offense. Robinson ran the ball a little better and seemed to be more decisive, but he's still not hitting the holes as quickly as he should. Altogether, Robinson probably left 30 or 40 yards on the field because he was trying to get out of bounds, he was tentative, etc. As far as passing the ball goes, it was all or nothing once again. He threw some nice passes (an out route to Hemingway, a post to Odoms for a TD, a crossing route to Gallon for a TD) and he threw a bunch of questionable ones, too (the interception to defensive tackle Terrence Moore, a post to Roy Roundtree into double coverage that was dropped by Stafford, a bomb to Roundtree that was played horribly by Dennard and should have been picked, a crossing route to Kelvin Grady that should have been picked, etc.). He finished with 23 carries for 83 yards and 1 touchdown, which is too many carries for such little return; he also finished 11-for-18 for 180 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Also, I really wish Robinson would learn how to pitch the ball on the option. Seriously, dude. Pitch it. I don't think you've pitched it once all year.
Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd. Nebraska's one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag. Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.
William Campbell wheeeeeeeee! It was pretty awesome to see him hustle downfield on a Taylor Martinez run and then turn Martinez into roadkill. Campbell had a sack on Martinez, too. Mike Martin is certainly a more disruptive force on the interior and will be missed next year, but Campbell has things going in the right direction with this coaching staff.
The commentators sucked. I really, really hate when Chris Spielman does Michigan games. Any commentator who openly talks trash about one of the teams on the field should be banned from commenting on the game. I tuned in to the game to enjoy Michigan football, not hear a former Buckeye repeatedly mention how long it's been since the Wolverines beat his alma mater. I actually like Urban Meyer's offensive philosophy and coaching decisions; he's oodles smarter than Spielman. However, I thought he showed some ignorance when discussing Denard Robinson's strengths and weaknesses. Especially early in the game, Meyer was touting Robinson as being excellent at the zone read play. Robinson makes more bad reads in the option game than good ones. Last season it looked like Robinson didn't even have the option most of the time - it seemed as if there were predetermined playcalls for whether he would hand off or keep the ball. This year it looks like Al Borges has given Robinson more freedom to pull or keep the ball, but Robinson frequently makes the wrong choice. I agree with Meyer that the quarterback power run bogs down the offense at times, but that's mainly because Borges and Robinson do a poor job of disguising the play.
I did not expect a 45-17 victory. That was kind of embarrassing for Nebraska and a pleasant surprise for Michigan fans. If Michigan's offense were clicking on all cylinders (i.e. if the offensive line could get a push), it could have easily been 59-17. And Nebraska got a little bit lucky that Jeremy Gallon didn't field that long punt at the end of the third quarter. Gallon could have grabbed it on the bounce but chose to let it die at the 4-yard line. That somewhat limited Borges's playcalling and Michigan went three-and-out, giving Nebraska a chance to punch it in for their 17th point. I'm not even being a homer when I say that blowout score of 45-17 was closer than the game actually was. Michigan held onto the ball for over 41 minutes, while Nebraska had the ball for just over 18 minutes. The Cornhuskers were just 3-for-13 on third down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down attempts.