Sunday, September 4, 2011

This is Michigan....

Date:  September 3rd, 2011
Opponent:  Western Michigan Broncos
Aww.  Me and the gorgeous bride.
Outcome:  Win (Weather Shortened) - 34-10
Season Record (Big Ten Record):  1-0 (0-0)
Time of Game:  3:30pm
Attending:  Rachelle Fera-Starnes, John Francis Orozco, Jacqueline Fera
Left Home:  5:45am 
Arrived:  11:15am
Departed:  8:30pm
Returned Home:  2:00am (9/4)

Pre-Game Meal:  Maize and Blue Deli - 1329 S. University, Ann Arbor.  Met with Flushing '90 alum and UM '94 alum Dr. John Miller and his son Nik.  I had #19 - Ed's Reuben.  Wish I had taken a picture of it.  Maize and Blue never disappoints.  This sandwich was loaded with pastrami, topped with coleslaw, jarlsberg cheese, a fried egg (everything is better with an egg on it), and thousand island dressing.  Maize and Blue was packed so we took our sandwiches to go.  We sat in the Diag and ate.  All the time wishing I had a Nerf turbo to throw ROCKETS past unsuspecting passerby's ears.

Game Recap:  Brady Hoke's first game as Michigan's head coach.  Western Michigan came out firing on their first drive in no huddle offense and went right down the field for a TD.  Ulcers bled.  Michigan's offense came right back with a TD, looking more like Rodzilla era offense more than the MANBALL many have envisioned, shortly after the 2nd Q started.

Already sweating buckets, pre-game.
Western's second drive ended with a missed 38 yard field goal after another drive where Michigan's defense showed very little resistance.  After a 3 and out by the Michigan offense, ulcers bled further as Western marched down the field once again down to the Michigan 4.  On 2nd and Goal, Jake Ryan, no not him, who started in place of the injured Cam Gordon at SLB, got home on a blitz right up the middle and tipped a pass that was intercepted by Brandon Herron who returned the interception 94 yards for a touchdown.  As chaos ensued around me, all I could do was raise both arms triumphantly. I couldn't  make a sound.  I was joyous, but more relieved that the defense had finally made a play.

Blitzes continued to disrupt the Broncos on their next 3 and out, followed by a 74 yard Michigan drive that ended with Fitzgerald Toussaint, in his first extended action as a Wolverine, picking up his second touchdown of the day.  The XP was blocked.  I reasoned myself out of getting too steamed as the snap was pretty terrible, still amazes me how fragile kickers are.  (Editorial Comment #1:  Here's a thought..How come for XPs..and shorter kicks teams don't take more than a seven yard snap?  Wouldn't that alleviate some of the blocks on low kicks?  Wouldn't it be farther for the end rushers to get home?  You can't tell me that a long snapper can't adjust accordingly.  Infielders in baseball make throws from all angles all over a diamond.   I can't believe a guy with one duty on a football team can't say "Ok, this snap needs to go 11 yards?  Can do, Coach.")

Western ended the first half with a FG following their hot knife thru butter routine, until Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison dialed up the blitzes again causing Western's QB Alex Carder to heave several passes to the corners of the end zone past his receivers.  Halftime  - Michigan 20 Western Michigan 10.

The halftime show was above average.  The marching band did a tribute to 30 years of MTV.  Songs included Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, Take On Me by A-ha, Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, Thriller by Michael Jackson, and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.  I probably missed one, but that's what sticks out to me right now.

The start of the second half coincided with the first of many torrential downpours.  Michigan went three and out after Denard overthrew Kevin Koger on a post route against single coverage on 3rd and 3.  (Editorial Comment #2: RUN IT DOWN THEIR THROATS.  That is all.)  Following a punt, the game went to it's first lightning delay after a play or two of the Western possession.

The new board.  Not sure why those lines are there.
Maybe my camera caught some They Live-type message.
Following the delay, Western took over and converted two third downs before Jordan Kovacs absolutely drilled Carder forcing a fumble which Brandon Herron scooped up and returned 28 yards for his 2nd TD of the day.  Following the XP, the guy running the brand-spanking-new scoreboards whipped the fans into a frenzy showing the replay of the hit about 5 times in 10 seconds, each one followed by 100,000 plus fans yelling "BOOM!".  If this sounds like overkill, it was...but it sure was fun.

The following Western possession featured another Kovacs sack off the edge and a punt.  Once Michigan regained possession, they wasted little time in scoring.  Toussaint went 43 yards up the middle on a nice run, but didn't have enough speed to split the safeties and score.  The next play, which should have been a touchdown, was play action off the same look that Toussaint just bust loose on, but Robinson's pass to Drew Dileo on the slant from the slot was thrown behind him.  In any event, Michael Shaw bust loose for 44 yards through a hole up the middle featuring a great kick block from LG Michael Schofield, who drew the first starting assignment of his career in place of Ricky Barnum, who was also in line for his first start, but did not dress due to the ominous "team issue" along with teammate RB Stephen Hopkins.

Captain Cheeseball and his mates
soaked prior to leaving the stadium.
Western's next possession featured another long third down conversion before the drive stalled after a fumbled snap recovered by Ryan Van Bergen.  As the downpours came and went, UM took over for what would be their final drive of the day.  After Denard completed his longest pass of the day, 37 yards on a jump ball to Junior Hemingway, the game was stopped for a 2nd time.  This time for good.  As we exited the stadium, we heard they were officially evacuating the stadium and soon there after had called the game.

It was a strange ending to a strange game.  In short, the offense looked potent with many contributors on the ground and through the air.  I'm concerned about depth on the O-line as Michigan wasn't able to do much at all when Michael Schofield left the field for a couple plays in the first quarter when he lost a shoe and Elliot Mealer came in at RT, shuffling Mark Huyge to LG.  (Which seemed like an awfully odd substitution at the time, far as I know, Mealer has spent all of the past 3 years at G).  Kevin Koger did have 2 catches, but I'm hoping the role of the TE continues to expand.  Koger is a big body with nice hands and flare for spectacular catches.  The defense looked like swiss cheese on many drives.  Carder passing the ball at will and Michigan losing contain on a few outside runs.  It seemed as if 3rd and 9 was money in the bank for Western all day; however, the D did FORCE two turnovers, and capitalized on a third, which is something that we haven't seen consistently for what seems like forever.

Amateur Analysis:  I will be interested to see how Hoke and Co. use Cam Gordon at Sam or Strongside Linebacker (SLB) when he's healthy.  Western did a lot of 3 and 4 WR sets, which forced UM into its Nickel and Dime packages.  I haven't watched the tape (what do we call this these days?  It's not "taped"'s on my DVR) yet, but it seemed to me that the strongside defensive end (SDE) Will Heininger or Nathan Brink came off the field in these situations in favor of FS Carvin Johnson (Marvin Robinson later in the game) and starting FS Thomas Gordon would slide down to "nickel".  RS Frosh Jake Ryan and true Frosh Brennen Beyer would then drop down into the rush end spot.  I'm assuming when Cam is healthy, he will also come off the field in these situations, in favor of Ryan/Beyer.  I'm sure Cam Gordon will blitz a lot from SLB, but they surely won't use him as a rush end at 222 lbs.  I didn't really notice Ryan being lost in coverage as the Sam, but I would guess, it wasn't fantastic either.  Thought he looked good blitzing from different angles.  He got to Carder very quickly on the middle blitz that forced the Herron INT.

Jacq, Shel, and JF pose for one more soaked pic.
Also found it interesting that the other walk-on safety, Jared Van Slyke, was on the field a lot after not hearing his name once during fall camp.  I'll have to check, but I would guess he came on the field in favor of the Will or Weakside Linebacker (WLB) in their "big" dime package (Actually 4 safeties, and 2 CBs) Considering we've heard such positive things about true frosh Greg Brown and Blake Countess at CB, one would think this would be a place for them to see the field.  I didn't see the Freshmen on special teams, even though Senior CB Troy Woolfolk was injured early on kick coverage.  Perhaps Hoke will attempt to redshirt them?  

Play of the Game:  Herron's 2nd Q INT return off the tipped pass by Jake Ryan.

Best Moment:  As the team lined up in the tunnel, preparing to rush the field, the new "hype" video was shown.  Typical stats are strewn about, 42 B1G titles, 11 National Championships, 3 Heisman trophy winners, 884 wins, 109,901 fans.  "This is Michigan..." is then repeated by several players.   Followed by Hoke himself (in spot on Matt Foley voice) from his inaugural press conference.  The place went bananas (also for his initial introduction).  There's no doubting the buy-in from those in attendance with Hoke right now.  Even better, they showed the video again later in the game as the team prepared to take the field after the stoppage.  This time I heard the full Hoke quote "This is Michigan, for god's sake".  I could swear they didn't play the second half of the quote the first time around, maybe the roar of the crowd drowned it out.  I'll have to watch for it next week, but GD it made me chuckle.  While it remains to be seen exactly what kind of coach Hoke will be, it's abundantly clear he loves this school, loves what it stands for, and will do everything and anything to put Michigan back where it belongs in the college football landscape.

Following the band into the stadium.
Other Fun Nuggets:  
  • Walking down State Street to games still does not suck.  That is all.
  • My daughter Jacqueline walked squarely into a traffic sign pole on the walk to the stadium.  
  • The 94 degree heat did suck while sitting in the stadium.  Prior to the clouds becoming extraordinarily threatening.  Brian from MGoBlog summed it up best when he tweeted "My first half MVP is the big damn cloud blocking the sun."
  • I hesitate to put this in here, because it is not "fun" and I hate to have anybody give this anymore hits, but this was unfortunately played several times throughout the day.  I could not hate it anymore.  The only thing that could be worse is if the lead singer recorded a video dressed like a nazi clubbing baby seals.
  • My new stadium neighbors seemed nice, and rational enough.  I'm a little concerned about one old-timer who sat directly behind me.  He didn't give me any "down in front"s, but I sense they're coming.  I apologized in advance for being excitable.  He followed up my attempt at humor of "Hey, maybe I can provide some shade for you." with "Yeah, but your blocking the breeze."  Guh.  To be continued...
  • The ride home was CRAZY for awhile.  We were treated to an amazing lightning storm and some heavy rainfall.  Check the video below for a good example, plus a snippet of the soon to debut "Ca$h and Shooter College Football Recap Show".

Post-Game Meal:  Frita Baditos - 117 West Washington, Ann Arbor.  Once we changed into some dry clothes, we went to this establishment as recommended recently by MGoBlog.  It did not disappoint.  It's a latin/cuban inspired burger/sandwich joint that is only a couple years old.  The place specializes in "Fritas" a primarily chorizo burger type thing topped with french fries on a cuban roll and "Baditos" a milkshake type substance which could be alcoholic.  I didn't get a Badito, but I did have a frita, and let me tell was awesome.  The whole fam loved the place.  I got my frita with a lime salsa, "tropical" coleslaw, and, you guessed it, a fried egg, sunny-side up.  It was definitely unique, but it was fantastic.  The bread was soft and perfectly grilled.  The chorizo was spicy enough to bring some heat but not overpower the other spices.  The french fries atop were fried and salted perfectly to work with the chorizo.  I can't say enough about it.  

MMMMM.  Mine on Right.  Rachelle's fish frita on Left
Looking Forward:  Notre Dame comes to town next week.  Fresh off a loss to an underrated South Florida team.  ND was favored, but turned the ball over 5 times en route to a 23-20 loss.  HC Brian Kelly benched freshly anointed starting Senior QB Dayne Crist at halftime of the game in favor of Sophomore Tommy Rees, who led the team to 4 straight wins to end last season.  I would suspect Rees will get the nod next week in what will be the first night game in Michigan Stadium history.  Hoke has already announced Cam Gordon will not be healthy enough to play, but Ricky Barnum should return and should improve the O-line and, at the very least, improve its depth.  Stephen Hopkins will also return, but after seeing Shaw and Toussaint, can't imagine him being used unless they really go I-form MANBALL in short yardage situations.  I wouldn't mind seeing a Hopkins as FB role, but not sure he's heavy enough to lead block.   

I suspect to have more bleeding ulcers, but hope that the D can confuse ND just enough to cause a few more TOs.  I am NOT looking forward to Michael Floyd against the Michigan secondary and can only hope that Woolfolk returns and draws the assignment.  I'm obviously looking forward to the excitement of the night game and all the gimmicks that will entail.  Michigan will most definitely have to play better on D and on special teams to move to 2-0, but I think they have it in them.  CAN'T WAIT!!!!  GO BLUE!!!

1 comment:

  1. Who's foul mouth did I hear in that video? ("Son...")

    "In the Big House" - might actually make me like the team a tad less. It's that gross.