Michigan Football: Three Reasons to Be Encouraged, Concerned After Week One
One down, eleven to go.
By all accounts, the Wolverines exceeded expectations on Saturday and showed the Connecticut Huskies, and the world, what Michigan football is all about.
But the road yet to be traveled is long and full of obstacles to be overcome. Teams like Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State are still waiting to put Michigan back in their place.
Let's take a look at what Michigan can take from the win this past week, what they can be encouraged about and will look to build upon, and what they need to be most concerned about.
Reason One to Be Encouraged: Denard Robinson
One word, "Wow", echoed by countless Michigan faithful as they watched Denard Robinson simply have his way with the Connecticut defense.
You could not have asked for more from the Sophomore in his first start at quarterback.
Robinson ran for 197 yards, more than any other individual (including all running backs) in the Big Ten during week 1, and broke the Michigan single game rushing record for a quarterback. He also passed for 186 yards, going 19-22 with no interceptions. His combined 383 yards means he broke the all time record at the University of Michigan for total offensive yardage in a single game. More than Tom Brady, more than Chris Perry, more than Desmond, than Harmon, than Thomas, Biakabatuka, and on and on and on.
It truly was a historic day at Michigan Stadium and Denard flat out took the momentum of the opening ceremony, answered any questions about him that were out there, and instantaneously thrust Michigan football back into the national conversation.
Even better news, he'll probably break his own record before he's done.
To say Michigan fans should be encouraged by his performance would be an profound understatement, they should be down right giddy.
Reason Two to Be Encouraged: Turnovers
For the first time since 2008, 23 games ago, Michigan did not turn the ball over in a football game.
Last year, Michigan ranked 115th out of 120 FBS teams in turnover margin. So it was refreshing to see Michigan taking better care of the football.
However, there were some close calls as Michigan did fumble the ball three separate times, but was able to get the ball back. You can only live on the edge like that for so long before you get burned. And as Michigan faces more formidable opponents going forward, it is unlikely that they'll be able to tempt fate like they did against UConn.
But overall, there is reason to be encouraged. While they could have turned the ball over, they didn't. And you can what if that fact forever, but it will not change.
In addition, the offensive line did a fantastic job throughout the game giving Denard Robinson plenty of time to throw the ball so that he wasn't forced into situations in which he would make bad decisions. If they can perform consistently like they did against the Huskies, you should see far fewer interceptions in 2010 than you saw in 2009.
Reason Three to Be Encouraged: The Offensive Line
Speaking of the offensive line, they were fantastic, and should receive a lot of the credit for what Robinson was able to accomplish against UConn.
David Molk, Steve Schilling and company, created running lanes for Robinson, Shaw, and Smith to run through all day long, and made sure that no one could get to Robinson when he dropped back to pass (not that anyone could catch him anyway).
It is clear to see that this unit has dramatically improved this year and the presence of David Molk back at center makes this team better offensively. You'll recall that prior to Molk going out for the season with an injury last year, that Michigan was 4-0 and life was good in Ann Arbor. Immediately following Molk's injury, the team began to struggle running the ball and protecting the quarterback, and things went downhill from there.
If the line can stay healthy this year, look for similar offensive performances, and great things to happen in the games to come.
Reason One to Be Concerned: The Defense
Alright, enough positive chi. Michigan fans are notorious for being self critical and there is a game to be played against arch rival Notre Dame next week.
The good news is this, there were no negative surprises that came out of the UConn game. Nothing came to light that we weren't already aware could be an issue.
First and foremost of those issues was obviously the defense. And while they will get credit for holding UConn to only 10 points, the game was closer than the score, and it was clear on Saturday that Michigan's best defense, was a good offense, completely dominating the time of possession by holding the ball on offense for close to 37 minutes.
But the defense did allow a 100 yard rusher in Todman, and allowed a total of 343 yards of offense. The defensive backs were okay for the most part, but did allow a few big plays that allowed UConn the opportunity to get back into the game. Luckily, Michigan's defense came up big when they needed to.
The defense looked fantastic on third down situations, holding the Huskies to only 4 conversions on 15 attempts. and on a fourth and goal, J.T. Floyd forced a fumble, as well as the momentum, back into Michigan's hands.
But therein lies the reason to be concerned. While at times, the defense looked incredible, like in the opening UConn drive, other times they looked almost lackadaisical and tired.
For Michigan's defense to be considered as better than "OK", they will need to play each and every play with the drive and intensity that they exhibited in the first drive on Saturday, and the focus and determination that they showed on third downs.
They will face a much stiffer test on the road, against the likes of Armando Allen and Michael Floyd, when they take on a Notre Dame team with just to much to prove as Michigan.
Reason Two to Be Concerned: Special Teams
Special teams were glaringly the worst part of Michigan's day on Saturday.
A missed field goal (blame the wind?), a missed extra point (can't blame the wind), and a botched punt return (again with this wind thing?) were the punctuation points of what seemed to be a defunct special teams unit.
Coach Rodriguez has already gone on record stating that Michigan fans should expect to see Daryl Stonum back more often receiving punts and don't be surprised if you see walk on Kicker, Seth Broekhuizen, attempting field goals sometime in the near future. Possibly as soon as Notre Dame, but definitely as soon as UMass.
Michigan got away with their mistakes on special teams Saturday, but against higher caliber opponents, in closer games, the most certainly will not be so lucky if the continue to make the same mistakes.
Reason Three to Be Concerned: Tate Forcier
"All you need to know is, I'm out". - Tate Forcier
If the images of Tate Forcier sitting alone on the sideline, seemingly on an deserted island, just prior to the finish against UConn, didn't speak volumes about how the kid was feeling, we certainly didn't have to wait too long to hear it from the horses mouth.
Above was the comment from Tate immediately following the Michigan win on Saturday. In fact, he hadn't even gotten off the field before he made the comment.
And while on the surface it's easy to think that losing what seems to be Michigan's 3rd string quarterback wouldn't be that big of a deal, I can tell you, it would be.
A scary moment occurred against UConn when Denard Robinson went down with a hip injury and had to leave the game. While he did return, and in his place came true Freshman Devin Gardner, if Michigan continues to utilize Robinson they way they did against the Huskies, he is almost certain to go down again. And next time, the injury may not be so inconsequential.
Will Michigan and Rich Rodriguez really turn to a true Freshman to run this team if things get going and Michigan begins churning out wins? I doubt it. If Michigan can get past Notre Dame next week, they have a legitimate chance to be 5-0 going into the Michigan State game at home. And at that point, the outlook for the season will have changed and expectations for Michigan's success will have dramatically risen, again. Are you going to put that responsibility in the hands of a guy who has barely played at Michigan? Or do you give the reigns to a guy who would have something to prove, and has showed he can play, and play well.
Michigan needs Forcier going forward. Not only would his departure hurt the team on the field, but it would be an unwanted distraction at a time when it seems as though Michigan may have turned things around.
His father has since stated that it is "150 percent fact" that Forcier is not transferring from Michigan. So it will be for the time being. But only time will tell.