Some days you're the nail. Some days you're the hammer. Then, occasionally you're neither, you're a giant ass bulldozer and you run right over the the hammer, the nail, and whatever fool school has gotten in your way.
Saturday was cathartic. After three years of watching Michigan struggle to put away bad teams and stop even the most mediocre of offenses Michigan finally, wonderfully, mercilessly rolled over the hapless Minnesota Golden Gophers 58-0 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. On offense Michigan did whatever it wanted. On defense Michigan held the Gophers to 86 total yards in the first half and just 177 total yards on the day, without giving up a score. Sure we've seen the Wolverines do this to Delaware State over the last three years, but we've never seen them do this to a conference opponent. The only thing that comes close is the epic 2007 yackety-sax of Notre Dame, and Michigan only scored 38 points that day.
What made it even better was that Saturday was beautiful. The clouds gave way to the sun and clear blue skies. The temperature rose to a comfortable 60+ degrees and the rain faded out with the dispersing clouds. The hot dogs were grilled to perfection, the donuts were hot and gooey, the beer was cold, and that was before the Michigan Wolverines ran through the Golden Gophers like a bulldozer through a pile a of solo cups.
For the first time since his magical fourth quarter against Notre Dame, Denard Robinson looked every bit of the Heisman candidate quarterback we thought he'd be this season. His passes were crisp and on target, his reads were good, and he was explosive in the running game. Maybe it was comfort. Maybe it was a switch going on. Who knows? Bottom line, Denard looked great, he didn't turn the ball over, and looked comfortable. That can only mean good things going forward.
More importantly for the season, Michigan finally appears to have a running game not named Denard Robinson. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 108 yards on 11 carries. Vincent Smith ran for 27 on 5 carries and a TD, caught a 28 yard screen pass that he turned into a touchdown, and threw a touchdown. Michael Shaw got back in the groove, running for 60 yards on 8 carries. And finally, freshman Thomas Rawls was impressive running for 73 yards on 10 carried. Amazingly, Michigan racked up 363 yards on the ground with Denard accounting for only 51 of them. And to top it off Michigan had its second 100 yards tailback of the season in Fitz.
On the other side of the ball, the difference between the 2011 and 2010 teams is night and day. Five games in Michigan has given up 51 points compared to 137 through five games last season. Michigan picked up three more sacks and five more tackles for loss (all of which came from different players), and even returned a fumble 83 yards for a touchdown. At NT, junior William Campbell looks like the light has finally gone on. At times during the game he was downright dominant. At one point, Campbell literally bulldozed his blocker in a single move, ran right over him and hammered Minnesota's Max Shortell as he released the football. Then there was the play of freshman Blake Countess who seems to legitimately know whatever route the receiver is running before the receiver does. Countess put up two more PBUs on the young season and spent his entire day in the hip pocket of whatever poor sap he was assigned to guard. More on him below.
Want to know something even more impressive? Jordan Kovacs had one assisted tackle. That's it. One. In two years of football with Kovacs as our starter, that's the lowest output he's had on the stat sheet since he came in against Western Michigan in 2009. He could've spent the day in a lawn chair if he wanted to. That's how good the front seven were today.
It's tough not to be excited about the most complete game you've seen your team play in almost two decades, even if it was a horrible Minnesota squad. Frankly, if the game didn't put a smile on your face, you're probably watching the wrong game and reading the wrong website. Saturday was wonderful. In the long run it may not mean much. Minnesota is an awful team. The hardest part of the schedule is staring Michigan in the face. I don't care.
For one Saturday it was nice to be the Bulldozer again.
Notes (more notes tomorrow, but I figured since the column was short I'd add some thoughts)
We made three field goals. I'm not kidding. Even more amazing? Brendan Gibbons kicked them at progressive distances. 25, 32 and 38 yards. What a difference a year has made for this kid.
More after the jump.....
Let the Holy Crap Jeremy Gallon Is A Real Receiver train keep picking up steam. Gallon had another great day with 4 receptions and some tough running. Mentally, he has to be one of the strongest kids on this team after what he went through the prior two seasons. He's obviously become one of Denard's safety blankets, and despite his size finds ways to pick up yards.
Wither Roy Roundtree? Hell if I know. Another drop by Roundtree and another week wondering what the eff happened to the Big Ten's reigning receptions leader. I know Roundtree is better suited as a slot guy, but he's still a receiver capable of running a route or two. I'm starting to get legitimately concerned about his lack of production and inability to hold onto the football.
Will Campbell looked good again. Oh boy. I hope to high heaven this wasn't a by product of playing a weak opponent rather than a sign of honest improvement. His emergence could be the difference down the road against the conference's better rushing attacks. Keep your fingers crossed.
Troy Woolfolk should not leave the bench until he is healthy. The poor guy can't buy a break, excuse the pun. He's gotten dinged up in every game so far this season and obviously needs some time to heal. We'll need him as the season rolls on, so let him heal.
Trick plays? Against Minnesota? Sure. Why not? I don't think hey make a whole lot of difference in game planning, but the coaching staff certainly thinks they do. I'm glad to see that Michigan can execute them without spearing themselves, which is something they couldn't do last season. It also shows that Borges has a little showman in him, which is a sign that more creative plays out of the offense may be in store as the season rolls on.
Nice to see Michael Shaw get some time Saturday. I was legitimately concerned that Shaw was injured when he didn't play against San Diego State last week. So it was a relief to see him in the game, and see him being productive when he was. Shaw just seems like one of the good guys and may be this year's version of Carlos Brown. I certainly hope he has a better senior year than Carlos had, but like Carlos, Shaw's one of my favorites.
I'm as excited about Blake Countess' emergence as the next guy, but I have to admit that the jury will still be out on the talented freshman until the Michigan State game. Emerge relatively unscathed, then he will officially have arrived. But until that time he's a talented youngster playing against two crappy wide receiving corps. Countess hasn't had to match up against BJ Cunningham or any of Notre Dame's talented receivers, so it's really hard to judge him fairly. Sure I love what I've seen, but there's a long way to go before he's wearing number 2.
As happy as I am about the shutout, I really wish Michigan'd had the chance to play against Marquis Gray on Saturday. With Dan Persa back in Northwestern's lin-up, having a mobile QB in the game would've been good for the defense see before they head to Evanston.
- The Jug stays where it belongs.