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Getting Offensive: Breaking Down Michigan's Offensive Performance Against UMass in the Wolverines' 42-37 Win

Below is MGoVideo's usual outstanding video compilation from Saturday. Couldn't break down any game without it. Watch it, review it, think about it. Every Offensive play from Saturday's win over UMass. Most plays are good. Some plays are really, really bad. Once you watch it, the nonsense after it will make more sense.

Initial Thoughts

First, the Bad. Only two plays into the game you're slapped in the face with Denard Robinson totally underthrowing Roy Roundtree on a sure touchdown route. What's worse, he led the safety right to the path of the ball. Watch the safety key on Denard's eyes and move right into the path of the ball. Sure, if he'd thrown the ball better it wouldn't have mattered, but it put Michigan behind the eight ball really, really early. Not so good. The more I watch it, that pass probably would've been picked even if the safety hadn't tipped it. Bad throw.

But then again, so was the entire start to the game. Michigan was bailed out by a personal foul, a back footed heave to Kelvin Grady, and UMass's generally being UMass on defense in the last 5 minutes of the First Half. The only other legit gripe I have is the same one everyone seems to have. Power set on 3rd and 1 when Denard was getting 5 a carry on the run? Bad call. Get the First down, kill the game. Also, please block the backside blitzer every now and then. Especially when it's obvious.

Now, the Good. Michigan ran up an obscene amount of yardage on 66 plays (really 65 [kneedown]). That's 8 yards a play. Michigan threw just 14 passes, racking up 241 yards and a 17.2 yards per pass average. Or taking completions only, 24.1 yards per completion. 24.1 is insane, just so we're clear. Then if we look at the yards per carry (subtracting one play for the knee down and adding the two yards it "lost") you get an astounding 6.97 yards per carry on 41 carries. That, also, is insane. 7 yards a pop on the ground, 24 through the air. That is an offense that was clicking DESPITE taking the first quarter and two-thirds of the fourth quarter off.

Yet again, the receivers were both excellent at blocking and receiving. The Tailbacks finally chipped in with some big runs. The Offensive Line was excellent and we even managed to get some rookies a little crushing time. The best thing about the day was watching Denard Unleash the Dragon. He was chucking bombs all over the place and the receivers were hauling them in. It was wonderful to watch. Denard's ability to stretch the field, something we hadn't seen until Saturday, should make it harder for defenses to key on the run. If teams are going to put 7 or 8 men in the box to stop the run, then Denard proved he will be able to make them pay for it. Look for a much more vertical passing game against BGSU, despite it being a fairly vanilla playbook with conference play around the corner.

Positional Reviews after the jump....


The Offensive Line: Just like the rest of the team, the Offensive Line seemed to struggle out of the gate. Molk and Schilling whiffed on a couple of downfield blocks, and the line didn't really look in sync. Then it was 17 to 7 and the Line got pissed. Patrick Omameh's block on the safety during Stonum's screen turned touchdown romp was outstanding. It would've been even better had David Molk not slipped on his way to smash the linebacker (but in all fairness, Molk did what he needed to do, make the guy hesitate and get out of position). What was also excellent was the pass protection. The pocket around Denard was almost always a gigantic horseshoe. Unless UMass brought the house, Denard had all day to throw.

UMass compensated for the differential on the offensive line with a bevy of blitzes that basically turned the Minutemen into a Buddy Ryan 46 defense. They were trying to bring one more guy than the line and back could account for. Even so, the line managed clear the way for Robinson to see the field and bomb the hell out of the Minutemen's secondary. Then, of course, there's the showing they made in the ground game. Robinson ran for 104, Michael Shaw ran for 126. There were gaps everywhere that let Shaw run free and allowed Robinson to get to the edge.

If I have some issues, there were some strange pulls by the linemen and a couple of times they released up field while there were obvious coverage/blitz issues. But I'm not sure that's on them. Overall the line was great. One other thing that should make your day, holy crap Taylor Lewan is the real deal. He absolutely destroyed whoever he went up against. Lewan personally opened up Shaw's second big run of the day by collapsing the entire right side of the UMass defensive line. It seemed like just about every block ended with him on top of the defender, snarling at him. In terms of form, I think he's gotta work on keeping his hands in a little more. I saw a couple of instances where he had his hnds outside the chest and on the defender's arms, but I'm nitpicking. The kid is awesome and I'm thrilled we got him some game experience (especially when the score was only 28-17, the left side of the line opened up the next to scores).

Because of the slow start, the line can't get an A. There were a few misses and some wierd things going on. But overall, another solid B+ performance trending to an "A".

The Receivers: It's becoming damn near impossible not to absolutely love this group. They block. They catch. They run like the wind. They sacrifice their bodies. Coming in to the season they were my biggest offensive question mark (Behind, of course, the special teams kicking game. But that's for another day.). Today, they're arguably Michigan's best offensive unit. Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum, Kelvin Grady, Martavious Odoms, and Junior Hemingway are all coming into their own. The only time they missed a reception is when Denard gunned it over their head at 90 mph early in the game. After that? It was lights out, baby.

Go down the list. On third and eleven on Michigan's first realdrive, Grady lays out and makes a stellar diing grab on Denard's back footed bomb. There was the Roundtree catch and run that was negated. There was Stonum's, well... everything. 3 catches, two touchdowns and 121 yards. Then there was Junior's beautiful catch and run with 37 seconds left in the first half and Michigan down three. Odoms blocking and sure hands. This group is deep. It is speedy. It is dedicated. This may well be Michigan's deepest corps of receivers since Mario Manningham, Carson Butler, and Adrian Arrington left town. And probably one of the deepest receiving groups in Michigan's illustrious history. And yes. I mean that. Everyone steps up an everyone is happy for each other. I'm just thrilled with this group. A+

The Running Backs: Finally! A break out day for Michigan's Tailbacks. Well. Maybe not tailbacks. Tailback. Michael Shaw was outstanding on Saturday. Accounting for 126 yards, a 10.5 ypc average, three touchdowns, and some monster blocks, Shaw has clearly separated himself from the rest of Michigan's tailbacks. One thing he said in his post game interview really stuck with me; according to MGo, Shaw said he was taking his time a little bit more, waiting for the play to develop. In hindsight, looking at the prior two games, Shaw would explode to the line and then start stuttering around. Handoff, boom, oh crap... where do I go. In the UMass game he seemed to slow down behind the line a tad and explode when the hole opened up. Shaw was equally effective out of the backfield as a viable dump off receiver and seems to be great at running after the catch. I'm thrilled with his development so far this year.

On the other hand, I don't think Vincent Smith looks anywhere near as explosive as he did last year. That's honestly to be expected when someone's coming back from an ACL tear. But he just seems... I don't know... slow. While Smith is very shifty in the open field, something we've seen plenty off, he doesn't seem to have that same elusiveness behind the LOS. I'm hoping he eventually really gets going because I think he's one of the better blockers and pass catchers out of the backfield. He just hasn't had that big run or that explosive game we expected to see when he first broke out against OSU.

Shaw had an outstanding day. Smith had an average one. Overall a B for the backs. As a result I have to believe you'll see more of Michael Cox, Stephen Hopkins, or Fitzgerald Toussaint (health permitting) against BGSU. But like I said, I think Shaw has finally asserted himself as a No. 1 back.

The Quarterback: Take away the bad interception. Take away the first sputtering drive. Denard was his usual awesome self. There were some issues I had with his Zone Read decisions (two or three of them were iffy) but for the most part his running game was great. Importantly, his carries were down to 17 this game, limiting his exposure to a beating. Look, Denard started off colder than an ice cube on Saturday, but recovered and quickly got so hot that he melted everyone's ice cream and even their Dippin' Dots (which are supposed to be the FUTURE of ice cream. Unmeltable, my ass). He held the ball when he should've, he took the sack instead of doing something stupid, he ran when needed. One issue, stop dropping the damn snap. I would've liked to have seen him check off the third and one where Smith got smoked, but otherwise another stellar performance. Most impressive? His deep throws. The passes to Grady, Stonum, and Hemingway were gorgeous. If he learns to put a little more air under that pass to Roundtree he's going to be deadly. Overall, a B trending to a B+. Denard was good, but he made enough mistakes that even with his numbers you know there's room for improvement.


It's hard to complain about any effort where your offense scores 42 points and covers up for an abysmal showing by your defense. There are things to work on, but I think you've got to tip your cap to the coaching staff and to the offensive play calling (for the most part). A great game from the offense.