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Michigan Quarterback Denard Robinson
The Brady Hoke Era has begun in Ann Arbor, and the Michigan faithful have finally gotten what I would call a sneak peak to what kind of season the Wolverines are going to have. Inclement weather forced this game between Michigan and Western Michigan to be called late in the third quarter, granted Michigan was winning 34-10.
Let's talk about what we did see, though.
Early the Michigan defense had shades of the 2010 season, where it gave up 263 passing yards per game and 35.2 points. As the game progressed, I think the Wolverines had a flashback of the final play of last year's three-overtime thriller against Illinois in Ann Arbor, in which the defense finally put immense pressure on Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, which led to a hurry and an eventual sack, winning Michigan the game.
The Wolverines started to bring the house on Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder, leading him to hurry his throws. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was drawing up all kinds of blitzing schemes. This created three Western Michigan turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Broncos were deep in Wolverine territory looking to make it 14-7, when Carder was rushed to throw; the ball was tipped and intercepted at the Wolverine 6-yard line by outside linebacker Brandon Herron, and he returned the ball 94 yards for a touchdown.
The second forced turnover for a touchdown was a safety blitz by Jordan Kovacs, who led the team in tackles in 2010. This was an obvious scheme drawn up by Mattison, as the flanking defensive end pulled his lineman to the right, leaving a gap for Kovacs to blind side Carder with a huge hit; this jarred the ball loose and was returned yet again by linebacker Herron. Herron earned Big Ten Player of the Week.
Coach Brady Hoke says his defense is "nowhere near playing like a Michigan defense yet," but I can see vast improvements from last year.
On the other side of the ball, every Michigan fan was wondering how Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson was going to fair in offensive coordinator Al Borges' pro-style offense. Robinson was 9-of-13 for 98 yards against the Broncos. For the most part, the defense and running game handled business for the Wolverines this past Saturday, and while Robinson's numbers weren't off the charts, you could certainly see his progression as a pocket passer and his capabilities in this offense.
Hoke and Borges are two smart coaches, and they know to conform this offense to Robinson's abilities. While Robinson is polishing his pocket passing skills, he is still running out of the shotgun and threatening the defense with his deception as a passer.
Michigan hosts its first ever night game against Notre Dame this Saturday night at the Big House in Ann Arbor. I expect the Wolverines to win this game convincingly. Notre Dame struggled mightily against an average South Florida team, so I expect big games from Denard Robinson, Fitz Toussaint and Michael Shaw.
Michigan's defense will get great pressure on either of Notre Dame's quarterbacks.