Hail to the Victors! Michigan bests Connecticut 30-10

Permit me for a moment...  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

 

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Poor quality cell phone pic still conveys something beautfiul, Go Blue!

 

And so following a three and out that was the best kind of medicine for a Maize and Blue soul, a beleaguered, battered, and kicked-when-down Michigan program limped out to its own four yardline, 96 yards away from a goal that for two seasons has largely eluded the Wolverines.  You could almost sense the crowd collectively thinking "again?" when Connecticut downed that punt on the four.  To say that we were anxious would be an understatement.   After all, Michigan faced a "more talented" squad on the other side of the field, and yet somehow, someway, yesterday was different.  The Wolverines took the opening drive and hammered it down the field with an emphasis that would've made all of the Michigan legends from yesteryear grin from ear to ear.  The new all-time record crowd of 113,090 sat with jaws agape as Denard Robinson did things that, until now, we've only watched opposing quarterbacks do to our defenses.  He tore Connecticut apart, and he did it with his arm AND his legs.  Eat your heart out haters... Rodriguez's offense, the much maligned, much criticized offense, came out of its cocoon today and for 60 minutes was the death butterfly that Brian had alluded to nearly 3 years ago.  The Michigan offense churned out long , time consuming, defense exhausting, gorgeous drives that, while out of the spread formation, harkened back to what many define as Meeeeeeeechigan football. 

The predictable, amusing, and never-ending routine that constantly faces Michigan fans will be no different this week: opponents will now switch stances as always.  After months and months of countless people predicting a certain UConn win, I cannot wait to hear them tell us that it was "only UConn" and that "a real defense won't miss tackles" and that "you can't ride Denard like that in the Big 10".  They'll pick and choose, masking their fear with snippets and jibes as they always do.  "Who cares" is the appropriate reply.  UConn wasn't Youngstown State, they weren't Marshall, they weren't Western Michigan, and they weren't UNLV.  It is indeed only one game, but this was a big first step.  Everyone predicted the Wolverines to be severely tested in their opener, many preseason breakdowns ranked Connecticut above this Michigan squad, nearly all the talking heads pointed to this game as an opportunity for an experienced Huskie squad to announce its 2010 candidacy as a Big East front-runner.  Those same people will now downplay all of that.  Which is fine, we're used to it, and quite frankly, we don't give a toss what they have to say.  Notre Dame looms, but for today, Michigan football has provided us a glimpse of what we've waited two years to seem, and for today, we will relish it.  Hail to the Victors valiant, hail to the conquering heroes!

Breakdowns after the jump...

On to the particulars:

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Non-football stuff:

  • The stadium looks great, the concourses look great, and I still think the "Michigan Stadium" letters from the old press box need to be on top of the new structures.
  • The B25 flyover was AWESOME, complete with a high banked turn behind the endzone on its way out.
  • Keith Jackson narrating the video for the stadium re-dedication was awesome.
  • All of it paled in comparison to watching Brock Mealer walk out and touch the banner, well done sir, well done indeed.
  • RAWK music died a beautiful, beautiful death yesterday.  A mic'd up marching band is one billion times better than piped in PA music.
  • Atmosphere and crowd get big pats on the back, I didn't get one "down in front" yesterday, which sadly is not the norm.

Offense:

  • 28 first downs, 473 yards of offense (287 rushing, 186 passing), 14 of 19 on third down, and perhaps the two most important stats: nearly 37 minutes with the football and ZERO turnovers.
  • What do you say when your quarterback goes out and puts up a performance like that yesterday?  Most accurate passing day in Michigan history, most rushing yards by a QB in Michigan history, most amazing debut as starter by anyone ever... seriously, what do you say?  Any attempt I make to logically describe Denard Robinson's performance yesterday will come up woefully short, so it's better to just let it stand on its own.
  • Denard wasn't getting touched until he was already 8 yards downfield, the offensive line was phenomenal.  No false starts, no holding calls.  If it helps the opposition sleep better at night to think that UConn tackled poorly, then have at it.
  • When David Molk went down for that one play, aside from everyone's pulse stopping, it was refreshing to see that we didn't have to shuffle anything along the line. 
  • Michael Shaw had a lot of nice carries and a few very frustrating dances in the backfield, including the mistake of the day by taking a 10 yard loss back to the Michigan five yardline.  Otherwise he ran hard and made some great backfiled cuts against the grain.
  • Vincent Smith picked up where he left off last year, he's great with the football in his hands, and continues to be a real weapon on screens.
  • I thought both backs did a tremendous job with their blocking, really great to see.
  • I was surprised that we didn't see Michael Cox and Stephen Hopkins at all yesterday.  Running back was thought to be one of those spots where we'd see a consistent rotation, but it certainly didn't pan out that way, Smith had 14 touches for 51 yards and Shaw had 15 touches for 59 yards.
  • Denard's 19 completions were to eight different receivers, and these were not short routes into the flat either, he was throwing strikes.  Stonum didn't have too many opportunities to stretch the field, but then again he didn't exactly have to.  Odoms again had a very solid game.
  • I certainly hope Roundtree is ok, that was one heck of a lick he took.
  • So, uh, guess we really aren't going to redshirt Devin Gardner... ok then.

Defense:

  • So if I had said UConn would only put up 10 points a week ago, what would you have called me?
  • CRAIG ROH!!!!!
  • I thought the defensive line did a solid job for the most part yesterday; UConn's O-line was huge, especially on the right side.  Lots of pressure on the QB, and again, Roh looked great.  Mike Martin really deserves a lot of credit as well for taking up multiple blockers and freeing up lanes for blitzers.
  • It's difficult to really evaluate the other linebackers as I spent most of the game watching Roh turn various UConn O-linemen into toast, I watched the DVR when I got home but have to admit I did a poor job paying attention to the LBs.  There were some obvious plays where the pursuit angles took them right into blockers, but there were also a lot of plays that seemed to feature competence.  For all of the preseason talk, Ezeh played the majority of the game.  Mouton made a number of very nice plays as well.
  • Frustrations on 3rd and long continue, although one of the conversions was that 17 juggle circus catch that lead to UConn's only score... The soft zone is going to have to be a reality with our secondary the way it is, but it was frustrating to see how open some of those guys were underneath our zones.  This will be an area of concern going forward.
  • That said, no big plays, no one play drives.
  • JT Floyd played very well, and James Rogers also had a couple of really nice hits.  For Floyd to square up and put his helmet on the ball against DJ Shoemate down near our goal-line at a crucial juncture in the game was just tremendous.  Amidst a game featuring many great plays, this would be my pick for play of the game.
  • UConn's receivers short-armed a few passes to be sure, but they also made some tremendous catches on less than stellar throws by Zach Frazer.  Overall given the level of concern surrounding our secondary, I was OK with how they played yesterday.  I thought the corners in particular did a solid job throughout with containing their receivers.  Up the seams and against our LBs seemed to be continued areas of weakness in pass coverage.
  • Todman and the UConn O-line created a couple of nice running lanes once the Huskies started going to the quick hitters outside.  Like I said in the preview however, I didn't care at all if he picked up 100 yards, just no one play drives, done and done.
  • My once coaching gripe:  You HAVE to call timeout on 4th and goal at the end of the first half.  Brilliant coaching by Randy Edsall to call the timeout prior to 3rd down and have two plays ready to go.  They totally caught us off-guard and got the whole defense out of position for an easy score at the end of the half.  Arg and arg.

Special Teams:

  • Somewhat tough to evaluate given the way the wind was whipping yesterday, and by somewhat tough I really mean, darn near impossible.  It's always tough when you consider that the American flag in our end was blowing one direction and the flags in the other endzone were blowing in the complete opposite direction.
  • Hey, a blocked FG!!!!
  • Will Hagerup had one punt all day, it went 51 yards into the wind, probably 25 of which were in the air. 
  • SWEET MERCIFUL GOD QUIT TRYING TO DIVE TO CATCH PUNTS!
  • Returns in general were really perplexing, Robinson falling down, the aforementioned gacked punt by Gallon, not a lot of running lanes open either, not a banner day. 
  • Field goal kicking... well hmmm.  Again with the wind and all.  I think the missed extra point may have been due to a flubbed hold?  It was hard to see.  This will also be an area of some concern going forward just because I think we still have no real good idea.
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