Posted at 6:00am -- 9/12/2011 GBMWolverine: Coach's Corner -- Michigan..."/> Posted at 6:00am -- 9/12/2011 GBMWolverine: Coach's Corner -- Michigan..."/>

GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Notre Dame at Michigan — What Happened and What it Means


Posted at 6:00am — 9/12/2011

GBMWolverine: Coach’s Corner — Michigan Football — Notre Dame at Michigan — What Happened and What it Means

In academia one can get spanked for writing too much. But here we are among the normal, well almost. So, here is a detailed potpourri of Saturday. Hope you enjoy.

The pre-game atmosphere was up to the hype and the game atmosphere was even better. Yes, Michigan Stadium was actually loud, the night atmosphere was a huge success, the scoreboard looks absolutely stunning at night, the pom poms were working overtime, and the crowd did not give up. And obviously the team did not give up either. The summation is thus: it was the best game experience anyone could hope for, truly the best and this judgment is not based on the final result, a win. That helped though, and will remain locked into memory.

Now let us look back to last week’s What Might Happen article and match up the predictions with the game results.

First, did Notre Dame actually have the best talent? Yes, indeed, no doubt about this declaration. Notre Dame actually had better talent at every position, quarterback being the only debate, if higher value is placed on passing, but Michigan had the wild card, and in the fourth quarter the Joker, one Denard Robinson, was dealt into Michigan’s hand.

Denard missed several key passes and a couple were dropped. But here is what GBMWolverine want all of you to take out of this reversal of fortunes in the fourth quarter. Hear this: superior athletes very frequently possess supreme, unshakable confidence. Denard clearly fits the description. Give an athlete of this nature a sniff and look out, results start to happen.

Notre Dame’s offensive line is big and excellent at pass blocking. The staple running play is the zone read. The inside zone was annihilating Michigan early. The outside zone play had mixed success, but several times Wood (mostly) and Gray broke big runs that could have been fatal except for saving tackles born out of grit and desperation.

Notre Dame did indeed place its faith in the trips. Sometimes Floyd was in the trips and many times he was isolated. He had a big day with 13 catches and over 150 yards. Floyd is probably in the top two receivers in college football this year. As mentioned Michigan had a choice, play him one-on-one, cheat a safety over for help, or rotate a safety. If ND suspected a safety out of the box to support against Floyd, the call was to run inside. Michigan did all three but more one-on-one than I expected. One of many turning points happened in the second quarter when Notre Dame had a chance to put the Wolverines behind the eight ball. Kovacs was squarely in the box. Rees excitedly audibles out of the planned call and instead called Floyd’s number. Kovacs rotated over instantly on the snap covering underneath Floyd. The result was an interception that kept Michigan in the game. The play was a sucker play. The UM defense baited Rees into the call and rolled the dice. In the interviews after the game UM defenders confirmed this observation.

Even though the yardage in the air was massive for Notre Dame, the view here is that the secondary did not do a bad job; now certainly not what Coach Hoke calls the Michigan standard. At least the secondary battled, albeit with mistakes, they all battled and for the most part were at least in the neighborhood. It will take a Woodson type back to shut Floyd down. The lack of a pass rush gave Rees some 7 on 7 types of throws: easy pickings. The secondary made some tackles that saved further touchdowns. Last year’s squad could have easily surrendered over 50 points. Those slants that almost went the distance would have gone the distance.

Michigan did indeed, as previewed, show weaknesses in the air and on the ground. But again, like last week, the defense kept getting better and better and Coach Mattison won on many moves of a massive game long chess game. Frankly, this was an enjoyable chess match between the ND offensive staff and Coach Mattison. There were wins and losses on both sides. But at the end Michigan had the King standing for a victory.

Wood is indeed good enough to bust long runs and the outside lost contain several times, especially early.

The defensive line is in need of big help and again was hammered early. Van Bergen came on the second half and Big Will may have been in the right time at the right time but he did contribute.

Demens did have some nice strong sticks, but it is no mystery that coverage is shaky with this group. Brandin Hawthorne is a football player, undersized but with good skills. His play Saturday was very important. If everyone gets healthy Michigan will have one above average linebacker and four or five near average linebackers who seem to take turns having a shining moment. Take note: this is an improvement and is not derogatory in meaning.

Michigan did use more Denard in the running game, but Toussant not being able to go mandated his extra involvement. Shaw and Hopkins mustered little in the end.

The Notre Dame safeties at times did play deep, but UM also went deep. The short stuff came later and was critical to the win.

Would the kickoff coverage problems persist? Michigan’s coverage team did get downfield better in the first half, but clearly more work is still in order this week.

To summarize the what happened part of the article, Michigan will have defensive concerns, but hard play and some year long improvements can at least minimalize damage. The offense, sans Denard, has difficulty running the ball, and the question of whether or not this will change this year against good competition remains a serious doubt. Michigan has played two very good passing teams and survived, granted one survival came out of critical condition. The team played very well again in the second half, gaining energy and showing improved play, in part due to attitude and toughness and in part due to obvious adjustments.

Is Notre Dame a good team? My view is yes, and next to Georgia the Irish may be the best 0-2 team in the country. But mistakes and turnovers are killing them. South Florida is no slouch and neither is Michigan. But even with the talent edge, the Irish have come up short. It would not surprise me to see this team run off a nice win streak. There will be no attempts to scan South Bend literature for opinion. Loses at this location are similar to loses in Columbus. My view is that Notre Dame got cute and did not take full advantage of the Michigan inability to stop the run. Then when Notre Dame needed to run, Michigan made a couple of stops. Notre Dame was also stopped on some trip options and screens, Michigan was prepared.

What to think of young Tom Rees? He has some hitch, but his accuracy is pretty good. Notre Dame rolls him when the staff senses pressure. Dayne Crist may become the best back-up in the nation, along with Devon Gardner. He will put up big numbers in this offense, Coach Kelly hopes one big number will not be interceptions.

What does this mean for the future? Confidence is a quality the doctor ordered for this team. Michigan is not in a position to be overconfident and the coaches and players are cognizant of reality. But the new swagger and confidence of coming through a tough breech can only help Michigan in the tough games that are ahead in conference play. This is where Michigan’s improvement or non -improvement will be measured.

More players are making contributions. There are two ways to look at this observation. First, some guys are not getting the job done and others are on try-out. Second, some guys are competing and getting closer to every player’s goal; becoming a starter.

Did Michigan get lucky? The last three Michigan scores came primarily from Michigan play and no real Notre Dame charity. Gallon came free for the big play but the Wolverines will certainly not play give back. No doubt some will view this as a Notre Dame collapse, but regardless of who has the most talent, a team must make plays to win. Michigan made many big plays, especially in the fourth quarter. For example, after getting pulped by Notre Dame’s running game, Michigan made several mega-critical stops on defense in the second half, at least enough to give the offense a chance.

Strategically the Wolverines now hold a high percentage of being bowl eligible. But with the current troubles and depth problems nothing can be guaranteed after two games. Yes, Michigan’s expectations are higher but reality has a starting baseline.

One final thought: regardless of the result, Saturday’s play reaffirmed Hoke’s message and foundation for Michigan football. The win was important but the intangibles to me override the result of one game that could have gone either way.

Please comment on our GBMWolverine Message Board about this article and read what others comment.

You can contact us at our e-mail address: GBMWolverine

Follow us on Twitter: @GBMWolverine

Written by GBMWolverine Staff

Go Blue — Wear Maize!