Sunday, September 9, 2012

Michigan 31, Air Force 25

Denard Robinson rushed for 218 yards and threw for 208, accounting for 4 touchdowns
(image via Sporting News)
The officials were terrible. Terrible. Air Force's first touchdown should have been called back for illegal procedure.  Quarterback Connor Dietz tossed to A-back Cody Getz, who beat everyone to the edge.  In the meantime, the wing started moving forward  prior to the snap like he was in the CFL and chopped down safety Jordan Kovacs, who was responsible for the pitch.  Without that forward momentum, Kovacs - Michigan's best open-field tackler - very well could have stopped Getz before the goal line.  Later in the game, Air Force converted on a key third down when both the quarterback and the running back - who were in a shotgun formation - started moving to their right before the ball was snapped . . . and a slot receiver was already in motion.  So three  guys were moving prior to the snap, and the play was allowed to stand.  Those were obvious, blatant non-calls and each one could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

Devin Funchess is the new Junior Hemingway. The freshman tight end is listed at 6'5", 229 lbs.  I expected him to look skinnier than he does, but he's fairly solid looking and showed an ability to stretch the field a little bit.  He caught a 29-yard wheel route and a leaping 30-yard touchdown, totaling 4 receptions for 106 yards and that TD.  Jump balls aren't going to work with most receivers on the roster, but this guy could be Denard Robinson's savior.

These are not the droids you're looking for.  Forget what you saw the defense do yesterday.  Yes, it was ugly.  Michigan allowed 290 yards rushing and 127 yards passing, but Michigan won't see another triple option offense this year unless they meet Air Force or Georgia Tech in a bowl game.  The defensive line won't see cut blocking like this, the outside linebackers and safeties won't have to be as disciplined, etc.  I know yesterday was frustrating and too close for comfort, but it's also mostly irrelevant to the rest of our opponents.

The cornerbacks are scaring me. Raymon Taylor was very, very weak in run support.  I'm not a huge fan of J.T. Floyd in run support, either, but Taylor looks to avoid contact with blockers whenever possible, and that's a bit scary.  Now I'm going to go back to forgetting what the defense did.

The offensive line has taken a step backward.  The absence of David Molk is noticeable, and I still wonder whether it was a good idea to let Rocko Khoury walk instead of getting a fifth year.  Starting center Elliott Mealer's snaps have been good, but he's much slower than Molk.  Meanwhile, Michael Schofield looked much better at left guard last year than he does at right tackle.  The offseason was rife with talk about how Schofield looked so great at right tackle, but I'm just not seeing it.  Some people mentioned how Fitzgerald Toussaint looked rusty, but it wasn't Toussaint - it was the offensive line allowing so much penetration.  He had nowhere to run at all.

Dennis Norfleet wants to eat.  When Norfleet jumped in front of Drew Dileo to steal a kickoff return, I sort of felt bad for Dileo.  Dileo's body language indicated he wasn't too happy about it, either.  Norfleet got hit after a short return, but then he bounced off and turned in a nice play.  He had 3 returns for 77 yards yesterday, an average of 25.7 per return.  The kid is going to be exciting to watch for the next few years.

BREAKOUT PLAYER JERALD ROBINSON! He had 1 reception for 10 yards.  Departing seniors have been calling for him to explode for the last two seasons, and now he has 1 career catch.

The linebackers will be awesome for years to come.  Jake Ryan had 11 tackles, including a nice tackle on the second-to-last play, and a leaping pass breakup on Air Force's final pass attempt.  Overall, he had an excellent day.  Sophomore Desmond Morgan made some nice plays at times, freshman Joe Bolden made 10 tackles, and freshman James Ross made a couple nice plays.

Denard Robinson continues to destroy mediocre defenses.  It was a blast watching Denard Robinson yesterday as he demolished the Falcons' defense, but it wasn't unexpected.  This is what he does to so-so defenses (see Bowling Green, UConn, UMass, Indiana, Eastern Michigan, etc.) and occasionally to good defenses (see Ohio State circa 2011).  A guy who's faster than Usain Bolt (not really) ought to run away from a bunch of Air Force Academy cadets, and Robinson looked fairly comfortable in the pocket.  If Michigan continues to struggle blocking for the running backs, Robinson is going to need to replicate this performance many, many times this year.

Hail to the Air Force Academy.  I'm sort of glad that Air Force put up a good fight.  My father and grandfather are veterans, another close family member graduated from the Academy, and I have a strong appreciation for those in the military.  They don't deserve to be embarrassed anywhere, including on the football field.  They should be proud of the way they played on Saturday.


  1. Regarding your comment about Raymon Taylor in run support, I couldn't agree more. When Countess went down for the season, I thought it was a big loss but I remember making a comment that I truly believed to the effect of: "Yeah it sucks to lose Countess, but at least this season it's not too bad of a loss. Countess is by far our best cover corner, but I think the other receivers are just as good in run support."

    I still think Countess isn't THAT much better in run support than Floyd, but I expected Avery and Taylor to be a bit better.

    Also, do you have any idea why Taylor seemed to play so much more than Avery?

    1. I'm not sure on Avery vs. Taylor. I know Avery is the best guy at slot corner, and it seemed like the coaches wanted to go with three linebackers against Air Force instead of with a nickel package. Maybe Taylor passed up Avery in practice at field corner, although I find that a little hard to believe.

  2. Jake Ryan played like an absolute Oosterbaan-y boss, especially given that what seemed like every third play ended with him covering the QB and no one covering the pitch man.

    Avery is like five times better in run support than Taylor, which is why it was odd that Taylor saw so much playing time against a run-heavy offense.

    I think James Ross is already better than Morgan. He's certainly more decisive and aggressive, which is what we need if our defensive line is going to be iffy.

  3. I also thought Frank Clark had a monster game, especially at the end. Good to have him back.

    1. I saw a lot of mental gaffes by Clark.

  4. Re: Funchess...sure would be nice if we had a couple of half-decent tight ends on the roster so that he could take snaps at WR. He could be a huge match-up problem for smaller CBs. Right now he's kind of a tweener....a big possession WR, though not all that fast, but too small yet to be an effective blocker at TE against BT defenses.

    Re: The Defense....sorry, but blocking and tackling are blocking and tackling. Our Dline didn't get any penetration to disrupt their option, and was pushed back far too often by much smaller players. Our LBs were constantly overrunning plays and missing tackles and our DBs were poor in run support and didn't break up a single pass (or even cover one well) all afternoon. Most of their incompletions came on straight drop passes when we managed to pressure the QB and make him throw the ball away. Air Force's DBs did a far better job of actually covering receivers than ours. You simply don't beat strong teams and win championships if you can't stop the run. Schembechler 101.

    Re: the was never all that talented, and it's not going to get much better as the season goes on, with guys getting dinged, but still having to play the whole game because we can't or won't build a lead and there is nobody halfway decent to fill in. The unfortunate fact is that it will be at least 2014 or 2015 before we have a talented, experienced Oline in place. What worried me most about Fitz is that he ran like he didn't care. I would LOVE to see Norfleet get some touches at you say, he looks hungry and with a little more game experience, he could be a great weapon.

    Bolden was one of the few bright spots on D (along with Ryan). Demens has frankly looked lost and awful so far, and I would not be surprised to see Bolden replace him as starter by the end of the year. Dline is pretty much a lost cause, so there's going to be a big burden on the LBs

    Re: Denard...depending too heavily on a few big plays is not a recipe for success against Big Ten opponents. He also got stuffed pretty often for short gains (not all his fault, but it will happen even more often in conference play). Effective running games depend heavily on getting 4, 5 and 6 yard gains consistently, and limiting short and negative yardage plays, which are the drive killers. Hard to see that happening with our Oline and lack of decent RBs

  5. Were Bolden and Ross on the field at the same time?

    I thought I saw that to be the case but was distracted and nobody else where i was at was paying much attention.

    1. Yep. There were even some plays where Bolden, Ross, and PeeWee were all in at the same time.

  6. I'm not sure if Khoury left more based on his own volition rather then the coaches, and what is the record for return yards in UM history (is that just kickoff or is that record combined with punts?) because Norfleet will easily content for that record

    1. I've heard that Khoury was not happy about leaving.

      Steve Breaston had 1,599 punt return yards and 1,993 kickoff return yards for a total of 3,592. Norfleet has 254 yards so far.

    2. I don't understand why the coaches would deny Khoury the fifth year (if that was the case) given how thin we are. That doesn't seem to make any sense. I thought we were grooming Khoury to replace Molk.

  7. Have to hope the younger guys step on DL because Campbell and Roh looked terrible from what I noticed.

    Clark looks bigger and stronger - he was all arms last year. Ryan looks bigger too - maybe it was the new number.

    Ross, Bolden, and Ryan look like a very promising linebacker trio. Morgan's going to get passed-over, I suspect.

    I was a little surprised to not see our safeties cheat up to the line more often, given how run-heavy AF was.

    Denard looked great and carried the team. Fitz never had a chance. Might as well have had Rawls in there to catch the penetrating defenders

    The OL situation is baffling. Besides Mealer these are all proven starters. I wonder how much of it is scheme and how much is personnel. Then again - they did make some holes for Denard, it wasn't all bad.

    Gardner is not a WR, he's an athlete. He makes me nervous out there. That 4th quarter 3rd down drop was brutal. It wasn't perfectly thrown, but it's a very catchable ball. His route running stinks and his hands don't look reliable. I don't necessarily see a better option than playing him, but I wouldn't mind one of the true freshman getting a chance instead. I wonder how much we'll regret this WR adventure next season. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he seems more raw than your typical true freshman - which makes sense since he's never played the position. I think he has to far to go with the little things to ever be a consistent pass-catcher.

    Funchess looked great. I agree that he's bigger than expected. My concern remains that teams will eventually figure out he's nothing but a WR who lines up off the line right. Once he learns to block - watch out. Very excited for his future.

    1. Gardner's fine. He's not great, but Roundtree's a WR and has had problems with drops. Gardner has two receiving TD's on the year, one in each game. I'm not sure why you would replace him with a true freshman.

      Funchess's TD reception came when he lined up on the line to the left. It was a two-man route: the flanker to the left and the TE to the left. The other guys all stayed in to block.

    2. Saturday's TD was a play I would have made. That was Borges and/or an atrocious defender decision to not cover the WR. You want to give credit to Gardner for being at the right place at the right time - OK. At this point, I agree he's a better option than Roundtree, but the freshman have more experience playing WR than Gardner. Gardner's been productive but I don't see him being a reliable threat. Maybe he'll develop skills and instincts faster than I think, but I'm not counting on it.

      I wasn't saying Funchess lined up at WR, I was saying he plays like one. He may line up right on the end of the line like a TE, but if he's in the game, they're not calling a run play in his direction, at least not from what I noticed.

      I wonder how much of the running game's failing have to do with TE blocking not matching what we had with Watson and Koger. I have a hard time it's all Molk/Huyge.

  8. Gardiner dropped a poorly thrown ball that he should have caught.

    His route running will have to improve in order to be considered awful as he just kind of wanders over to a spot and then puts his hands up.

    Denard frequently looked like he's throwing darts rather than a football.