Why Beating Delaware State Was Important For Rest of Season and Beyond

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 5:  Michigan Wolverines players huddle before the game against the Western Michigan Broncos on September 5, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

With Delaware State filling the 12th spot on the schedule, many Michigan fans—and college football fans in general—scoffed at Michigan playing a team from the Football Championship Subdivision.

However, I think this was a very important game for this Michigan team.

For starters, I have no problem with Michigan playing Delaware State this year. With a roster comprised of mostly underclassmen, and a complete overhaul in progress, playing an FCS opponent was better than a bye week in my opinion.

I would love to see Michigan start scheduling another tough out-of-conference game every year, but at this point in the development of Rich Rodriguez’s scheme, it’s not time for that just yet.

Once the team grows up and the spread-n-shred is fully ingrained, I hope the schedule will be strengthened. But when you have Florida, arguably the nation’s top team and reigning national champion, playing Charleston Southern, Troy, and Florida International, one must look that way first before pointing fingers at the baby Wolverines.

Playing a game of this sort in the middle of the season is valuable for a number of reasons.

First of all, it was a chance to get a number of players healthy.

Starting quarterback Tate Forcier suffered a concussion against Iowa and still has a lingering shoulder injury. He played just one series in the game, enough to keep his rhythm, but got to rest the shoulder the rest of the game.

Senior running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were also afforded the luxury of rest. Both have been hampered by injuries—Minor a sprained ankle and Brown a concussion—and neither played at all on Saturday.

Michigan also got another week of rest for starting center David Molk, who suffered a broken foot against Eastern Michigan. Right guard David Moosman, who has been filling in for Molk, has had some snapping issues, so the quicker Molk gets back on the field, the better. He may be ready to go this week against Penn State.

In addition to resting the starters, Michigan was able to get a lot of the young(er) guys some valuable game-time experience.

Freshman quarterback Denard Robinson was used as a change-of-pace option in the first six games, but really got a chance to pioneer the offense on Saturday.

Though it’s hard to gage the actual value, given the level of competition, it was still an opponent different than what he goes up against every day in practice, and that should not be overlooked.

While Michigan’s defense is much more talented than Delaware State’s, by practicing against it day-in and day-out you learn the schemes and the tendencies of individual players. Delaware State served as a practice against a defense he had never seen before, in a game situation.

So, while the perceived value doesn’t turn any heads, the actual value might pay off down the road, and that is what really counts.

Other young guys who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time this year, like running backs Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, and Michael Cox, got a chance to show what they can do and gain some experience and confidence.

The trio combined for 321 rushing yards on 37 carries—an average of 8.7 yards per carry—and four touchdowns.

Running back depth is always important, but especially so in Michigan’s offense, which often employs multiple backs on the field at the same time. With Minor and Brown somewhat banged up and graduating after this season, Saturday was a great chance to see what the future of the position holds.

Throw in the fact that Smith, Cox, receiver Kelvin Grady, and tight end Martell Webb each scored the first touchdowns of their careers, and it was an exciting day for the morale of the team, especially following two tough losses.

The team needed a bounce-back game after losing close games to Michigan State and Iowa to get back on track for the rest of the season.

Four of the final five games figure to be very tough games, beginning with Penn State this Saturday.

You can bet that Rodriguez didn’t spend much time in practice last week preparing specifically for Delaware State. Essentially, he had two weeks to prepare for Penn State, which enters this game ranked 13th in the nation.

Rodriguez didn’t show much of anything against Delaware State, so don’t be surprised if we see some new wrinkles on Saturday that have been practiced for the past two weeks.

Finally, it was fun to see Michigan put up big numbers and yards without actually running up the score.

Remember that when Florida racked up 56 points on Troy earlier this season, Tim Tebow was still throwing the ball well into the third quarter even with a 40-plus point lead.

While Troy is a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team and is most likely better than Delaware State, Florida is also much better than Michigan comparatively.

Michigan’s first two quarterbacks played barely into the second quarter, while third-stringer Nick Sheridan saw the most snaps and even fifth-string quarterback Jack Kennedy saw action.

While Michigan piled up the most yards of offense in team history (727) and the most points in a game since 1992 (63), it was largely done by the backups and Delaware State head coach Al Lavan was nothing but complementary after the game.

“We came to play an outstanding football team and an outstanding football team showed up,” Lavan said. “Michigan plays hard and fast, and they simply dominated us. I was not shocked, but surprised at how dominant they were. We were inconsistent in what we were trying to do. Overall, our performance was not due to a lack of effort. My hat goes off to Michigan.”

It’s not often that you put that many points on an opponent and they have nothing but nice things to say about you.

But that just shows how fun this game was, in getting 84 different players onto the field.

So while Michigan won’t gain any BCS love for whipping Delaware State, the game’s intrinsic value to Rodriguez’s young team was high and should pay off down the road more than a bye week or another tough loss to a good team would.