I would like to say that Michigan came out looking strong and confirming my hopes of a quality season in the Big Ten. I would like to say that I was impressed with the strides the defense took during the week. I would like to say that Michigan learned from their mistakes in the Notre Dame game and came out prepared to keep the hype machine rolling and not make a repeat of the 2009 season.
There's a lot of things that I would like to say about today's matchup vs. Football Championship Series opponent UMass that would just be horrific lies and destroy any sort of credibility I may have.
Instead I'll be recapping a game in which Michigan eked out a five-point win at home after back-to-back solid wins against UConn and Notre Dame.
I spent most of UMass' opening drive trying to find the station the game was going to be broadcast. My DVR was telling me one channel but, due to me living in Belleville, Ill., and having to deal with regional coverage, I was greeted by the Illinois-Northern Illinois game. When I finally found the substitute channel the Michigan game was being shown, UMass was already down to the Michigan 35-yard line.
After the field goal kick that put Massachusetts on the board first, I wasn't too concerned. I figured Michigan would have no problems driving down the field and putting points on the board. Instead on Michigan's second play, Denard Robinson threw into double coverage and the ball got tipped for an interception.
I'd like to be able to post a TV angle of what I saw, but I still need to buy a special hard drive for my DVR so I can move stuff over to my laptop and create screen shots. Sorry, I'm not very prolific yet.
Anyway, on that play Robinson went through his progression to his second option and saw Roundtree slightly ahead Kumar Davis and made a quick decision to unload for what would be a decent gain. What he missed is the fact that UMass is in Cover 2 and the second safety is patiently waiting for Roundtree to enter his zone to be picked up. The ball was tipped and Davis ends up with the football.
Some other notes from the first quarter:
- Defensive end Mike Martin is getting good pressure on the QB but seems to lack the closing speed in the backfield.
- Around the 5:04 mark I write, "Passing is off-target" immediately followed by "Beautiful deep ball to Grady. Has Robinson found his deep touch?"
- 1:57: "Awful coverage"
- Again: "Roh and Martin seem to live in the backfield but are always 1 step shy of a sack. Kudos to Havens for being mobile"
Second Quarter: Michigan 7, UMass 3
UMass starts out the second quarter on the Michigan 15 and this just feels like a touchdown drive. I remember cynically looking over at my wife after seeing UMass line up with two tight ends right in an I-formation from the Michigan 10 and saying, "Twenty bucks they run right."
Sure enough, the ball is snapped and Jonathan Hernandez glides untouched into the end zone to put the Minutemen on top.
Not much happened for a while. Both teams moved the ball a little before being forced to punt until Seth Broekhuizen comes out and misses a 38-yard field goal from the right hash. This is a huge area of concern for the Wolverines, who won't be in much of a position this year to give up three points on a makeable field goal.
If a kicker doesn't emerge soon, Rodriguez may abandon the kicking game altogether and just go for it on fourth down.
Speaking of the kicking game, Jeremy Gallon needs to never return a punt for Michigan again. He has, in three games, made three horrific decisions regarding balls that should or should not be returned. At this point I would be more OK with nobody back to return punts and just picking up where the ball lands.
At this point the Minutemen are really getting some pressure on Robinson and their offense has figured out how to gash the Michigan defense with the running game. It's not until there's 1:17 left on the clock that the offense starts to show some serious life and move down the field with a sense of urgency, putting up two touchdowns with the help of a Jordan Kovacs fumble recovery.
Some more notes from the second quarter:
- The Big Ten Network camera man sucks. The announcers call "Robinson runs left" while the camera man follows Vincent Smith up the middle for most of the play. If the announcers can see where the ball is, you should be able to, Mr. Camera Man.
- 13:33: "2nd bobbled snap. Robinson is sacked (although this might be recorded as just a TFL).
- Two plays later: "Robinson sacked again. What happened to the O-line being solid?"
- 10:40: "Mike Martin finally eats the QB"
- Next play: "Mike martin eats RB."
- Literally in all caps, taking up about half the page: "WTF GALLON?!" This page in my notebook is a little crumpled because, just before I wrote that, I had to get up off the couch and retrieve it from the corner of my dining room where it landed after I chucked it in my blind rage.
- 6:15: "Shaw needs to stop dancing in the backfield if he's going to be a consistent contributor to this offense."
Third Quarter: Michigan 21, UMass 17
I unfortunately don't have too many play-specific notes on this part of the game. I think most of that is due to the fact that I was about four shots of vodka down at this point.
A few of the big things I noticed were that Mike Martin was everywhere, even coming back to help snag a wideout from behind. He's really my unsung hero of the game. He consistently did work all game but, with the exception of his sack, didn't really look spectacular from a statistical standpoint.
Offensively Michigan seemed to be distributing the ball around more. Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith, who alternated drives this quarter, were starting to find some holes. Shaw broke a nice one for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Fourth Quarter: Michigan 35, UMass 17
As this quarter gets underway I'm starting to think that this is more like what the game should look like. A minute and 13 seconds later, UMass puts another TD on the board and makes the game look interesting again. The Michigan defense consistently bites on play-action and gives UMass all sorts of wide-open looks.
Massachusetts would go on a 20-7 run before Michigan could assume the victory formation and get off the field.
Final: Michigan 42, UMass 37
This is really just completely unacceptable, especially if Rich Rodriguez wants to silence the boo-birds and keep his job. Almost losing to an FCS opponent the week your team enters the AP Top 25 while your QB puts up ridiculous numbers en route to possibly a Heisman bid is NOT the way to do it.
Denard Robinson is one of the best athletes I've had the pleasure of watching but he can't carry this team through Big Ten play all by himself. As Bo Schembechler put it, "No man is more important that the team. No coach is more important than the team. THE TEAM! THE TEAM! THE TEAM!."
The defense needs to start gelling like a team instead of wondering who needs to cover which man and chasing their own tails around the field.
I really hate to say "I told you so" but to everyone who was praising the Michigan defense after the Notre Dame victory, I present September 18th: UMass at Michigan.
The bottom line is that Michigan needs this team to be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten this year. The program won't be able to survive another coaching change. These players need a consistent staff around them to be able to succeed in the future and they can't do that if their coach changes every three years like it does with unsuccessful NFL teams and at Notre Dame.
Michigan has to give 100 percent here and now if they want to succeed in the future. Today a win isn't good enough—not against an FCS school. Now, instead of being excited for Big 10 play, I'm absolutely terrified this will be a repeat of last season.