Thursday, October 6, 2011

License to Kill Gophers...

Date:  October 1st, 2011 12:00pm
Opponent:  Minnesota Golden Gophers
Outcome:  W 58-0
Season Record (B1G Record):  5-0 (1-0)
Attending:  Robert Fera, Bob Fera, John G Fera, Francisco Orozco, John Francis Orozco, and Michael Zogaib
Weather:  High 40s/Low 50s and Partially Cloudy.  
Title Reference:  Here

Game Recap:  First B1G game of the season.  Michigan looked tough from start to finish.  Minnesota playing without starting QB Marqueis Gray and Head Coach Jerry Kill has been in and out of the hospital the past few weeks with a seizure disorder.  Coach Kill was on the sidelines for this one, but probably wishes he wasn't.  

I think they might have scored already.
Michigan took the kickoff right down the field 80 yards in 7 plays in under 4 minutes following receiving the kickoff.  Toussaint made the big play on the drive bursting through the right side of the line for 35 yards  before Vincent Smith finished off the drive with a 3 yard run off the left side of the line untouched for the TD.  7-0 Michigan.

Denard about to hand to Vince for 6.
Nearly all of Minnesota's possessions will read exactly the same.  (Insert RB Name here) runs into Ryan Van Bergen on 1st down for 1 yard.  (Insert RB Name here) runs into Mike Martin on 2nd down for no gain.  On third down, QB Max Shortell is pressured and has to hurry a throw into coverage.  Punt.  Michigan's D was so dominant in the game it actually became a little boring.  Yeah, yeah, the same D that gave up 30 some points to UMass last year made it look easy against a team from the Big 10.  I'm afraid Minnesota is just that bad though.

Michigan's 2nd possession featured the fake run/counter pitch out of an exciting new formation.  The formation puts QB Denard Robinson in the backfield at wingback, with Vincent Smith at another wingback, and Fitz Toussaint as the deep back.  Instead of a dive they faked a sweep right with Denard and then pitched to the opposite side with Toussaint.  The play relies heavily on faking the pants off of the weak side defensive end, who obviously keys on Denard on the play.  It'll be interesting to see how much more they deploy the formation.  At the very least it gives opponents more to plan for.  Also, this drive featured the first sprint counter/draw of the day.  Love this call mainly because it KILLS Michigan's D every time opponents run it.  I vividly remember MSU running it all day with DeAndre Cobb in the 2004 game.    This drive ended in a Denard 9 yard TD run.  14-0 Michigan.

Following a 3 and out, UM scored again on a halfback pass from Vincent Smith to Drew Dileo.  It wasn't a pretty pass by any means and Dileo did a good job of catching and keeping a foot in as the pass sailed to the corner of the end zone.  It's nice to run these plays, but even as it's only 21-0 it already seemed like it was rubbing it in.  3 Drives, 3 TDs.  21-0 Michigan.

Minnesota got a first down on the next drive, but quickly fell apart again.   Michigan took over on their 31 and got 20+ yards with Fitz Toussaint on the sprint counter on the first play.  The drive was finished off by Vincent Smith on a 28 yard TD on the throwback screen (a play call I absolutely love).  4 Drives, 4 TDs.  28-0 Michigan.  Vincent picks up "the cycle" with a TD rushing, passing, and receiving.

Following a 3 and out and a Michigan drive for a short FG, Minnesota threatened to cross midfield, but true Frosh Blake Countess stripped a Minnesota WR of the ball which Carvin Johnson pounced on.  Countess continued his stellar play from the week before and already looks to be Michigan's top CB.  I can't imagine Troy Woolfolk and his club and bad ankles can hold him off very much longer.

Michigan ended the half with an 18 yard TD pass from Robinson to Senior TE Kevin Koger.  It was one of Denard's better throws of the day as he hit Koger in stride over the LBs who didn't have any safety help.    38-0 Michigan.  6 Drives, 5 TDs, and a FG.  End of First half.

Halftime show featured songs from the Beatles.  My brother-in-law Bob was a little dismayed as they played 5-6 songs and only 1 Lennon tune.  I'm challenged to remember all the tunes at this point, but it was pretty much what you'd expect... 8 Days a Week, Eleanor Rigby, Got to Get You Into My Life, and finished with Hey Jude.  It was a tough day for the band, as they played the show in honor of Patrick Fleming, a trumpeter who was killed in a auto accident on Monday.  They marched all formations without him leaving space where he would have lined up.  It was pretty moving as the hole created by his absence was a constant reminder of his death.

Following a 3 and out, Minnesota finally forced a Michigan punt, but Michigan's D held again and took over near midfield on what would be another TD drive.  A drive that featured an awesome stiff arm from Kevin Koger on a little swing pass that picked up 18 yards.  Fitz Toussaint finished the drive with a 1 yard TD drive.  45-0 Michigan.  It would be Denard's last drive of the day.  There's really not much else of noted to discuss in the game other than Brendan Gibbons made 2 more FGs, one from 38 yards, which took him to 3-3 on the day and 4-5 for the year.  

Robert and Bobby enjoying the sunshine.
The other thing to say is that Denard looked much better today.  It may have been how Minnesota was playing them, but they didn't go down field much at all.  Most pass attempts were in the 5-15 yard range and he looked sharp throwing him.   He hit many receivers in stride and on their numbers.  He finished the game at 15-19 for 169 yards and 2 TDs.  I'm not positive, but I think he hit his first 12 passes.  He played the game with a heavy pad on his right forearm, supposedly after he had an access drained/removed early in the week.  Hopefully, it was the cure to an inaccurate start to Denard's season.

Michigan's 2nd team offense looked ok.  True Frosh Thomas Rawls picked up most of the carries and looked promising.  Would like to see him get some more work as the B1G season progresses.  He's got nice quickness for a bigger back.  Might be useful against tougher defenses if Michigan's smurfy backs can't get loose against the MSUs and Iowas of the world.

Amateur Analysis:  Defense is now #2 in the country in scoring defense, which obviously won't continue, but again, it's pretty much the same personnel who gave up 37 to UMass last year.  The tackling seems a lot better, but I think they are just overall more fundamentally sound.  I believe I saw a statistic that Michigan has not given up a play of 40+ yards yet this year.  Last year, they gave up 15 during the year.  They obviously could still hit that number, but zero through 5 games is pretty damn good.  They've done an excellent job of keeping the ball in front of them and only seemingly losing contain on a handful of outside runs per game.  Without being at practice, it's tough to say who deserves the credit for this resurgence, but I  like what I see from the secondary a lot thus far, so for now, we'll say "bravo, Curt Mallory".  

Play of the Game:  Pick one.  I'll go with Toussaint's first big run.  There were some crushing blocks that set him free and it's always fun to see backs burst through the line into the open field.  He was caught from behind, but only because of a failed ankle tackle as he burst into the open field which slowed him just enough.  Toussaint finished the day with 108 yards on 11 carries.  It was his first 100 yard game as a Wolverine.  Love what Toussaint brings to the field.  He's a shifty, speedy back, with a thirst to lower the boom on DBs if they get in his way.  If he stays healthy, he'll be a good one.

Best Moment:  Helping my father-in-law with the Victors.  It was his third time in the stadium an I think he finally figured out the "Hail" late in the second quarter after about the 103rd playing of the tune on the day.

He's got it now.
Other Fun Nuggets:  
  • Because I'm a nut, I added to my collection of Michigan tattoos with this beauty.  I got it done on Friday before the game in Lackawanna, NY.   I've always liked the "angry teddy bear", but wasn't sure how it would look.  Once I found out that it was one of the earliest logos/mascot used by the University back in the 20s, I had to get it.  I think it looks pretty cool.  Still debating on filling it in with yellow (bear) and white (hat).   It's on the inside of my left leg, opposite of my "M" and "Wings".  Once it heals, I'll add a picture of my Michigan "gallery".

  • Had to outfit the crew with some maize for the supposed "Maize Out".  I knew it wouldn't turn out so well with the cold weather.   Not my crew though, we bought the Ts big enough to go over everyones coats to give them all the Stay Puft look.
They're ready to go now.
  • Student section pulled out all the stops for the Wave in the middle of the third quarter with the regular, slow, fast, reverse, double, and double fast wave all making the rounds.  This was much to the delight of Francisco, who declared "we can leave now" at 45-0 and his waving activity completed.
  • Ready to go after his wave participation
  • No Cash and Shooter again this week, but Dad was delighted to see Minnesota get smoked as Purdue plays them next week and gives them one of their best opportunities for a B1G victory this year.

Post-Game Meal:  With the big group, and my Father-in-law loving Maize and Blue from a visit last year, we had to go back again.  I made a new choice with the #79, Suzanne's Latest Discovery.  This sandwich was another perfect creation, featuring pastrami, turkey pastrami (a new fave), swiss cheese, cream cheese, and red onion on grilled white bread.  The cream cheese was a fantastic complement to the peppered pastrami.  

Wade's latest discovery
Looking Forward:  Michigan goes on the road for the first time this season to face Northwestern.  It's hard to figure what might happen as Northwestern has played most of the season without their best QB Dan Persa, who tore his achilles late last year.  Persa saw his first action of the season last weekend against Illinois and led the Wildcats to 28 points on 4 TD passes before aggravation his injury.  According to reports, Persa will play but he will be without Northwestern's top rusher, Mike Trumpy, who tore his ACL in the loss to Illinois.  I gotta believe Michigan will have enough offense to win the game.  I like how the defense has played since the ND game, but scars of the past still linger enough to get me worried.  I expect Michigan's OL to lead the way to a big day on the ground for Toussaint and Robinson as Michigan moves to 6-0 heading into the MSU game.  GO BLUE!!!