Michigan Crisis Averted...for Now
By crisis averted I mean, the Wolverines won't be showing much resemblance to last year's Notre Dame team that started the season 0-5. But they could still end up with a record similar to the Fighting Irish's 3-9 posting in 2007.
Saturday's 16-6 win over Miami (OH) doesn't give me much confidence that the Wolverines will be able to avoid a losing season. It was an ugly win that featured two solid drives by Michigan, one to start and one to finish the game.
In between was basically what we saw against Utah, an inept offense that is led by quarterbacks better suited to run a high school JV team.
Still Rich Rodriguez's first win at the helm deserves some credit and the team did a lot of things right that they didn't do against Utah. Let's examine by unit.
Quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan are haunting my dreams. Seriously, I cannot fathom having either of them starting another game beyond this season.
Threet still looked better than Sheridan despite overthrowing every downfield target and finishing 6-for-13 and 63 yards. Wow, after looking at that it's worse than I thought. 50 of those yards came on a wide receiver screen to Martavious Odoms who did all the work on that play.
Whatever, Threet's passes still looked better than Sheridan who was innaccurate on all throws and can't throw a screen pass to save his life. Both barely combined to pass for over 100 yards.
The running game was night and day different than it was against Utah as I predicted and Sam McGuffie looked like the stud we thought he would be.
Michael Shaw looked spectacular on his two carries before tweaking his hamstring (he should be OK according to John Heuser from the AA News).
I can't believe Brandon Minor only got the one carry on the day. Two weeks in a row he's made significant contributions, he better see more playing time against Notre Dame.
My only beef with the running game is the stretch draw play. It worked once out of probably 12 tries on Saturday and that one time was Minor's touchdown run. The toss plays seem to work for McGuffie as do runs inside the tackles. But that stretch draw play is horrific.
On a side note, did anyone but me notice on the first drive that Michigan lined up in a I-formation and ran a fullback draw? That got me hot, not gonna lie.
I think the biggest problem with it is that the inexperienced offensive lineman don't know how to properly block for it.
Which leads me to the o-line. Left tackle and Jake Longs replacement Mark Ortmann dislocated his elbow and is reportedly out for this weeks rivalry game in South Bend.
Not to worry, Bryant Nowicki filled in nicely after Ortmann left.
I don't have much to say about the wide receivers because Michigan only threw the ball 18 times. Although Odoms looked amazing on that screen pass on the first drive. That's the kind of damage the spread n' shred is suppose to produce.
Overall grade for the offense: C+
I love our defense. Yeah I said it. I love them. With the exception of the first half against Utah, this unit has been great.
The secondary needs to shore up its coverage as Miami quarterback Raudabaugh overthrew a couple sure fire touchdown passes but that kind of thing progresses as the season goes.
Donovan Warren and Morgan Trent have been stellar but our safeties and nickel backs need to step it up a notch.
Brandon Harrison led the team in tackles with eight and had two pass breakups. He's an example of someone who has stepped up after two sub-par seasons and needs to show the younger guys the ropes.
Watching the defensive line at work is like watching a military offensive strategy show in the history channel. Breathtaking and dominate. Brandon Graham is amazing as is Tim Jamison and Will Johnson who knocked out Raudabaugh late in the game.
Lets make this a running tally throughout the season. Michigan D-Line knockouts: 1
Mike Martin looked really good as well in spot duty filling in for Terrance Taylor picking up a sack.
Obi Ezeh continues to be the rock of the Michigan defense with another turnover recovered and five tackles. Jonas Mouton showed why he should be starting with seven tackles and John Thompson, while getting beat a couple times on underneath throws, tied the team lead in tackles with eight.
The front seven were getting pressure against an offensive line that averaged 310 pounds. The secondary needs to tweak some things but that is all. Last six quarters the defense has given up just 280 yards, nine points and no touchdowns.
Overall grade for defense: A-
I have jinxed K.C. Lopata and take full responsibility for his misses on Saturday. After he drilled a 47 yarder to put Michigan up 10-0 I was talking to my buddy Dave who will most assuredly have a comment about this. I told him that I guess I no longer have to worry about our field goal kickers like I have for years.
Minutes later he missed a 41 yarder and an extra point later in the game. I will now be on the edge of my seat every time the Wolverines line up in field goal formation.
Donovan Warren should stop returning punts mostly because he has no concept of what a fair catch is. Seriously Donovan, you just have to waive your hand in the air! Plus he's too valuable on defense to be doing that anyway.
Boubacar Cissoko should be returning the punts after proving he's capable on kickoffs.
I think we all need to look at the infatuation we all have with Zoltan Mesko. He only averages 45 yards a punt and let's face it, he's never going to win a Ray Guy award. Until he corner coffins it at the one from 65 yards out, I'm demoting him from intergalactic emporer to the guy in charge of the Russian space station.
Overall grade for special teams: B-
Rich Rodriguez is becoming tougher to understand already. I get why he's switching quarterbacks but I think it's becoming detrimental to their psyche.
He should have started Threet the entire first half and Sheridan the entire second half. I don't agree with how he's doing it. What's the point of bringing in Sheridan with four minutes to go in the second quarter?
And please as stated before scrap the stretch draw play until the offensive line learns how to block for it and displays that in practice.
Scott Schafer kept up with the adjustments he made at halftime of the Utah game and the defense is the best unit Michigan has.
Overall grade for coaches: B-
Michigan won by 10 like I predicted they would and controlled the majority of the game like I wished they would. I would be happier though if Michigan had put more than 16 points on a MAC team. I'll have to look it up but that's got to be the lowest score posted by a Michigan team playing a MAC team.
Overall grade: B- barely
It's rivalry week as Michigan prepares to visit Notre Lame in South Bend this Saturday. Besides Ohio State there is no school that brings out pure hatred in me like Notre Dame. Every day there will be a post.
Here's the schedule: Tuesday a history lesson on the rivalry, Wednesday a humor column about the rivalry, Thursday editorial on Notre Lame's recent demise and Friday a preview/prediction.
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