Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to Basics...

Date:  September 24, 2011  12:00pm
Opponent:  San Diego State Aztecs
Outcome:  W 28-7
Season Record (B1G Record):  4-0 (0-0)
Attending:  Jacqueline Fera, Autumn Padovani, Chip Meredith
Weather:  Gorgeous sunny day in the mid 60s

Pre-Game Meal:  Because we missed the band and the team running out of the tunnel last week against Eastern, we didn't take any chances this week and didn't eat in Ann Arbor pre-game.  We met up with Chip outside of Reveille Hall around 11:30 and headed straight to the game.  My Panera breakfast sandwich off of the Worst State Ever Turnpike on the road was fantastic though!!

Game Recap:  I was pretty skeptical coming into this game.  The betting line was UM -10, which I thought was WAY too many points to be giving a team with the #2 RB in the nation coming into the game.  I felt good about a Michigan win, but figured it was going to be a back and forth run fest.  I went as far as to declare SD State +10 as the lock of the century.  

San Diego State won the toss and elected to receive, hoping to set the tone early by running it down Michigan's throat.  Michigan stood tall early though and, after their best kick coverage of the year, stopped SD State on a 3rd and 1 from their own 27.

Michigan continued its strong start to the game with a 6 play, 61 yard drive culminated by a 5 yard Denard Robinson touchdown run.  All 61 yards of the drive were gained on the ground,  with the key play being a 32 yard run by Vincent Smith.

Down 7-0, San Diego State overcame an early holding call on their drive to convert a first down.  Ronnie Hillman started to look like the promised as he put together consecutive 7 yard runs before fumbling at the end of an 8 yard run.  Hillman was stripped by Kenny Demens as he was churning for extra yards in a pile of swarming Wolverines.

Michigan capitalized quickly as Denard kept the ball on a speed option play on 3rd and 2 and went 53 yards for the score.  It was the first time the play had been called this year and it was clear SD State was prepared for it.  Denard was all alone in the clear almost instantaneously.  14-0 Michigan. with about 7 minutes left in the 1st quarter  My pre-game declaration looks ridiculous already.

San Diego State's next drive looked promising as QB Ryan Lindley completed his first two passes as he took the Aztecs into Michigan territory; however, Lindley's third and fourth down passes were incomplete from Michigan's 30 and Michigan took over on downs.  Both passes were rushed as UM was able to get a little pressure on Lindley and make him uncomfortable.  Lindley, who was touted as an NFL prospect coming into the year, didn't look it there.

Michigan's next drive ended with a Vincent Smith fumble in SD State territory; however SD State was unable to capitalize as SD state went three and out.  After Michigan followed up with a three and out of its own, SD State went on an amazing 14 play drive.  Amazing because I don't recall ever seeing a 14 play drive that didn't end in points, let alone only travel 40 yards.  After a holding call, SD State finally had to punt from the Michigan 43.  The defense, despite not being able to get off the field on 3 straight 3rd and 1 plays looked good as the defensive line continued to get push and gang tackled the ball carriers.

Michigan took over at their 19 with over 6 minutes on the clock and would march down the field on what would probably be their best drive of the year en route to a third Denard Robinson TD run of the half.  The TD play was a nice bootleg that he cut back to the inside behind a nice block by Michael Schofield.  The play of the drive though wasn't really play, but more of a decision by Hoke to go for it on 4th and 2 from their own 48.  I wasn't really a fan of the call as it happened, but given the success of the Michigan running attack at the time it was a safer play than I felt at the time.  Michigan had lined up to punt prior to Coach Hoke calling a TO to rethink his original decision.  Michigan entered the half up 21-0.  The sun was shining bright.
Autumn and Jacqueline

The halftime show didn't do much to improve the mood though.  I think the goal was to make the halftime show "interactive" by apparently letting the fans vote on the songs to be played; however, it turned out to basically be a rehash of the last three shows, with eminem, the blue song, and thriller all being rehashed.  The show ended with the Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle, which, judging by the fans reaction, I'm not sure how it won.  It was kind of sad to see less than 10% of the fans doing the "antlers" routine.  Chalk one up to piped in music and Pop Evil.

The second half is somewhat of a blur at this point.  There wasn't much energy in the crowd as the game never really seemed that close and Denard Robinson did his best to keep SD State in the game by throwing a couple of interceptions early.  SD State appeared to be moving toward their first points of the game when Ronnie Hillman broke free for a run of 30 yards; however, Ryan Van Bergen made a great hustling play to chase Hillman down and strip him of the football which was recovered by Jake Ryan at the Michigan 7.

Michigan took the ensuing drive 70 yards before the drive stalled at SD State's 23, forcing UM's first real FG attempt of the year which was pushed left by the left-footed Brendan Gibbons.  The kick was definitely strong enough, but missed just left.  The drive was mainly short gains on the ground, but was highlighted by a beautiful screen pass to Vincent Smith.  Smith had a caravan of blockers in front of him, unfortunately they had no one to block until 30 yards downfield, by then Smith had outrun the fatties and was tackled by a safety.

UM forced another three and out, but turned the ball right back over on 1st down as Stephen Hopkins buried himself further in the doghouse as he fumbled on a hard stick by SD State.  SD State would finally capitalize on UM's fourth turnover of the game with a Lindley pass to Colin Lockett for a TD.  The 3rd Quarter ended with UM up 21-7.

As UM went 3 and out, SD State took over at the 50 yard line.  Lindley was complete for 10 yards for first down to UM 40, but Lindley promptly went 3 straight incompletions.  The teams then traded punts before Michigan took over with 8 minutes to go.  Denard started the drive with a 30 yard run to the SDSU 27 and the drive was finished by a great 7 yard TD run by Vincent Smith who dragged a safety the last 3-4 yards into the end zone.    UM 28 - SDSU 7.

The remainder of the game was filled with prevent type defense and UM trying to run out the clock.  The biggest play coming when Craig Roh came off the right side to sack Lindley and force a fumble which was recovered by Jake Ryan again.  San Diego State threatened on their final drive as well, but Lindley was rushed into several bad throws by the D line as the drive sputtered at the Michigan 13.  UM wins 28-7.

Jacqueline and Me
It was a win reminiscent of eras past.  It was only three years of Rich Rodriguez, but it was definitely odd to ~only~ score 28 points and win handily.  I loved the way the defense played, and I've always preferred to see UM grind out the yards on the ground.

Amateur Analysis:  Several encouraging takeaways in this game, the first being the play of the defensive line.  Craig Roh, Mike Martin, and Jake Ryan did a good job of pressuring Lindley on most passing plays, making a purported pro prospect look very average.  Additionally, Ryan Van Bergen made two of the best plays of the game, the first chasing down Hillman and forcing a fumble, the second when he burst through the line and snagged a SD State wider receiver for a 5 yard loss on a jet sweep/end around.  The coaching staff went 9-10 deep on the DL in this game, a rotation that will probably be shortened up in the forthcoming Big 10 season, but if it allows production like this, I'm obviously all for it.

Loved seeing the speed option from the offense, it gives another threat for opposing defenses to have to respect.  I saw a couple new formations as well, with RBs split wide, and several new TE formations.  Let's hope they save a couple of these looks for Michigan State in a couple weeks though.

On the negative side, I don't need to say it, but Denard is carrying the ball an awful lot.  Going into Big 10 play, he's going to have to start looking better throwing the ball if he's going to last the season.  Teams will continue to load the box and pound him relentlessly if he can't.

Play of the Game:  I have to go with Van Bergen's hustle play to track down the nation's #2 rusher from behind and force a fumble deep in Michigan's territory.

Best Moment:  Hoke's decision to separate himself from Lloyd Carr and go for it on 4th and 2 from the Michigan 48 on the final drive of the first half that put Michigan up 21-0.  Again, I wasn't a fan of the decision at the time, but I'll blame the disappointment of the last 4 years on my feeling that something was going to get screwed up by the decision.

Other Fun Nuggets:  It was a pretty slow day as far as ancillary stories.  I'll say this though, I had to hold back several times from snapping at grown men from leering at my 16-year old daughter and her friend Autumn.  If you need fun times, just envision me unexpectedly snapping on the leering dudes like Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton's Batman.

No Cash and Shooter podcast this week as Dad wasn't available to chat on my drive home this week.

Davie, readying to shout someone down
Post-Game Meal:  After being discouraged the past few attempts by the line, I was determined to get to Blimpy Burger this week.  Blimpy was a staple for me during my last few years at Michigan.  The place never disappoints.  It's the greasy spoon to end all greasy spoons.  If you haven't tried it, you haven't lived.  Beyond the great food, the experience is something you can't get anywhere else.  Once you finally get to enter the building, you'd better not stand in the doorway, hold the door open, sit down, or talk on your cell phone or fear getting shouted down by one of Blimpy's very cordial employees.  Once you make it to the serving line, you first place your fried food order.  I got a large onion rings this time through.  The fun really starts once you make it to the grill.  Blimpy has had several gems working the grill throughout the years, but none more iconic than a very small black lady with braids who could pass for Whoopi Goldberg's sister.  (I finally found out her real name is Davie this weekend.)  I instructed the girls how to order as we went through the line, as Davie proceeded to give several customers hell in front of us.  For the uninitiated, the rules are written on the wall; however several ALWAYS seem to screw it up.  You start with the number of patties, the kind of bun, and any grilled items (mushrooms, onions, bacon, etc.).  It's not that hard, but when Davie shouts to you for your order, MANY choke.  This time I went with a Quad (4 patties) on an onion roll with an egg (of course) and mushrooms.  As far as cheese, I'm a fan of bleu....and with my Michigan fanaticism how could I not have bleu when Davie does this (panicked camera work ensues):

Needless to say my burger was phenomenal.  The onion rings were perfect.   I had a Red Apple Soda from Sprecker's to wash it all down which was uniquely spectacular.  All in all, it was the perfect cap to a great day in Ann Arbor.
Looking Forward:  The B1G season starts next week with a game vs Minnesota.  Minnesota is 1-3 on the year with recent losses to New Mexico State and South Dakota State.  I just can't imagine them hanging with Michigan.  I fully expect Denard to have another big day on the ground.  I would not be surprised if he hits 200+ again.  The defense will face it's first truly dual threat QB of the year in Marqueis Gray.  These type of guys have always given UM fits, but I'm confident that Mattison will show enough looks to confuse Gray to keep him guessing.

I'm really looking forward to the game as football in October is just better, but I've also got a few extra tickets, so I'm bringing a group of 8 with me.  Should be a great time as I bring some of the men from my Buffalo family for a tour and some good eats.  My father in law loves Maize and Blue, so I'm sure we'll hit that again.  GO BLUE!!!

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