ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Ronnie Hillman #13 of San Diego State fumbles the ball after Ryan Van Bergen #53 of the Michigan Wolverines forces the ball out during the third quarter of the game at Michigan Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated San Diego 28-7. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
We're three days removed from Michigan's 28-7 win over Coach Hoke's old San Diego State Squad, so it's time to sit back and take a hard look at what we saw. What say you internets?
Where the hell were you last week? - Dude. Real life. Job. Family. Things like that.
I don't care. You abandoned me. - Come on, you know those other things mean nothing to me. You're the one I ... mumble....
You're just saying that. - No. It's true. I ... mumble..... you. Come on. Who's my favorite?
i am. - What? come on...
I am! - That's better. Shall we move on to the Game Notes?
So, Craig Roh was back with a vengeance - Man. Was he ever. I know the whole "hearing football" meme has been overdone, but that third down stick Roh placed on Ronnie Hillman made my fillings hurt. It was one of those colisons that make you either: a) look away, then slowly look back expecting to see someones bones protruding from their body; or b) make you jump out of your seat and go "DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMN!" and proceed to hit the person next to you over and over again saying "DIDUSEETHATDIDUSEETTHAT?" until they get mad at you and punch you in arm. Tack on a sack and some solid, solid play and Roh looks like me may finally be all the way back from whatever slowed him down this summer.
What's that mean for Jibreel Black? - Maybe a little less playing time. Rohand Black were rotating anyway, but I can certainly see times when both will be on the field at the same time. If you're going big, William Campbell and Mike Martin with Ryan Van Bergen and Roh makes a lot of sense. But if you want speed and pass rush, Black and Roh bookending Van Bergen and Martin seems like a no brainer. We'll see what happens. I think Roh won his starting spot back, and Mattison is going to keep them rotating to keep them as fresh as possible.
Talk about Blake Countess and only say nice things or I'll knife you - Kinda hard not to say nice things about the first true freshman cornerback since Donovan Warren to step on the field at Michigan and not be immediately burnt crispy. Think about it. Courtney Avery, Terry Talbott, Cullen Christian, and so on and so on. While Avery has some incredible upside, he got beat up pretty bad last year. On the flip side Countess acquitted himself very very well. Seven tackles, a PBU and didn't give up a big play. SDSU immediately went after him the second he was on the field and he responded by being awesome. People inside the program have been saying he's going to be something special since he first showed up on campus. Nice to see those words weren't just lip service.
Say more nice things about the defense - This is like last year, except the opposite. The personnel on the field are largely the same as last season, but instead being put in positions to fail they're being put in positions to suceed. I know that sounds trite, but it's true. As I mentioned yesterday, Michigan has given up almost HALF the number of points it'd given up at this point last season (51 this season versus 92 in 2010 and 91 in 2009). That's staggering. Through four games, here's what the break down looks like in comparison to the last two years.
|Year||Total Yrd||Rush Yrd||FR||INT||Sks||TFL|
Ah, statistics. Michigan is somehow ~80 yards worse against the run this season than last, yet has given up ~200 fewer yards without managing to spend a lot of time in the backfield. The difference? You mean besides Playing Eastern Michigan whose entire offense is based on its Rushing attack? Yes, besides that. Two things, pass defense and turnovers. Pass Defense? Really?I kid you not. Put the NotreDame game out of your mind for a minute and really look at the quarterbacks Michigan's faced. Two of them are legitimate NFL prospects with some scouts pegging SDSU's Ryan Lindley as the best QB in the draft. And then there was Notre Dame's insane cadre of talent on the wings. Michigan has given up just 780 passing yards in 2010. That's down almost three football fields from last season at this point.
Next is turnovers. Despite the flubs on offense, the defense has put Michigan at a staggering +5 in turnover margin this season. Those turnovers have gone a long way toward shrinking the number of points Michigan has allowed on the board. As a matter of statistics, fumbles and turnovers regress to the mean. That said, certain defenses always excel at creating them year in year out. The perfect example, in human form, is the Chicago Bears Charles Tillman. Tillman is not a particularly good cornerback (having watched him for years), but he excels at causing fumbles and getting interceptions. It's a practiced skill. Punching the ball out, stripping the hands, doing the little things well. And this defense seems to be doing those things. Even if you take away the two Notre Dame causeless fumbles, Michigan is still at 7 fumble recoveries. Either way its basically two take aways a game and an indication that this coaching staff has taught something the last one couldn't: how to get to the ball. Pretty exciting to watch actually.
So what about the offense? You still being Debbie Downer? - Yes and no. I thought the offense looked great for the first half of the game until Vincent Smith's fumble seemed to take a little air out of the tires. The problem here is that San Diego State is an awful rush defense team this season. Their aversion to stopping the run is similar to Michigan's against Wisconsin. So piling up huge rush numbers really shouldn't shock anyone. I am, however, thrilled to see two tailbacks emerge from the pen and assert themselves. At this point I think Vincent Smith has won the job outright simply based on performance to date, though I do understand people saying otherwise about Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaintis simply a more powerful runner than Smith and valuable on the goalline because of it. I think they'll be alternating the rest of the year.
The passing game though... yeesh. Receivers running bad routes, dropping balls, not helping Denard out on the bad throws. Not a stellar performance by the tight ends or receivers. Then there's Denard'saccuracy. It's like a SCUD missile, just not as accurate. He's late on his throws, he's making bad reads, he's trying to do too much. It's just one of those things we're going to have to live with until he settles in to the offense. I'm not going to rehash it.
Anything positive you'd like to add to a 21 point victory there, happy pants? - I'm just being honest.
SAY NICE THINGS!- I did think the offensive line looked as good as it's looked all year. Denard Robinson hadclean pockets all day to throw in, plenty of space to run through, and they even opened up holes for Smith and Toussaint to run through. When Ricky Barnum went down, I have to admit I was a little nervous. Then Michael Schofield stepped in a it was like the offense hadn't missed a beat. THAT was a great thing to see. Depth! It's wonderful.
What's it all mean? - Not much. Michigan has two more games to prepare itself for the first true bell weather of the season in East Lansing. Saturday they get the hapless Minnesota Golden Gophers. This program can't buy a break. They build a new stadium (a gorgeous new stadium BTW) and end the season under .500. They play USC close then lose to the worst team in Division I and then lose to another FCS school. And on top of that their coach, a reallygood coach and good person, has a seizure disorder that's will keep him out indefinitely. (Our hopes and prayers are with Jerry Kill and for a speedy recovery.). It's just... man... just when you think you've reached the bottom of the pit a trap door opens and Minnesota just keeps on falling. That's Saturday. I'm a little nervous about this one because the Gophers really have nothing to lose at this point. But then again, they turn the ball over even more than we did last year.
After that the Wolverines finally leave the Big House for a date with Northwestern in Evanston. Dan Persa should finally be back under center in this game, so that scares me. The fact that Northwestern gave up almost 400 rushing yards to ARMY does not. So who knows? Then it's on to East Lansing. We'll have a better idea about this team after they leave Evanston, but the real litmus test comes Oct. 15th.