Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to the Future

It's been a pretty obvious parallel to draw the last couple of years - stadium under construction, team under construction. Holes in new structure, holes in depth chart. Unpoured concrete, unfinished tackles. So maybe it's fitting then that on a day when they opened the new bigger Big House, we got to see a team that may finally be beginning to resemble the finished product that Rich Rodriguez envisioned when he first arrived here almost three years ago.

The offense we saw on Saturday reminds me of the old Michigan offense. Not the traditional pro set we had under Carr and Moeller, but the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense of the mid and late 70s. An offense where the rushing attack is so precise and potent that the passing attack doesn't need to be overly complex to be successful. It relies heavily on the athleticism and decision making of the quarterback. On Saturday, Denard Robinson ran it to near perfection. His reads in the Zone read play were good, his passing was accurate and on time, and his knack for finding the right hole and hitting it at top speed was outstanding. It will be hard to top this game against a team that some suggested might be the best in the Big East.

Even with the workman like effort by the offense, it was perhaps the defense that was the most pleasantly surprising. It is not a stretch to say the last two years have been the worst defenses in Michigan history. a simply mediocre defense this year will be a huge improvement, and might be enough by itself to secure a bowl bid. and that's what we got on Saturday, a simply mediocre defense. There were some bad angles taken by safeties and bad reads by linebackers, but there were few of the crushing missed open field tackles that led to long touchdowns last year. There were no sacks, and the defensive line didn't beat blocks one on one, but there was enough pressure on the QB from linebackers to make the UConn QB uncomfortable. Most importantly, the defense got a key turnover at the most opportune time, something they hadn't done for the last two years. Is this a championship level defense? No. is UConn an offensive powerhouse? No. But there was enough positive play to suggest that maybe, just maybe the defense will be good enough to get us to the winning season we've been waiting for.

Other thoughts:
-I was hoping we see more kids play, especially on defense. I'd like to see what Marvin Robinson can do at Jordan Kovacs SS/Bandit position. I'd like to see more of Will Campbell, and hope he gets his act together soon. I'd like to see Stephen Hopkins take a turn at RB to see if he can fill the runaway beer truck role that Owen Schmitt manned at West Virginia. I was hoping to see Drew Dileo at punt returner, especially after Jeremy Gallon dropped his first punt (HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL!)
-I'd like to see Tate Forcier stick around, just for emergency purposes, but after his disappearing act after the game, I won't be broken up if he transfers. The guys at MGoBlog, of course, were right on top of this story after the fact, talking to his dad. That interview sounded a lot like damage control, and given the family history of transfers not working out, I would guess his dad wants him to stick around. But it's clear that he's not happy, and it will be hard to convince a 20 year old kid who's been raised all his life to be a star quarterback that he should be content to be a backup with little chance to play meaningful snaps unless someone gets hurt.
-Outside of the kick block, special teams were pretty mediocre. Although I think the wind played a big factor, kicking will be an adventure all season.
- You could see David Brandon's influence all around the stadium on Saturday: The band was miked up and you could actually hear them; there was no piped in music, save for one snippet of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" at a quarter break; they announced a Slippery Rock score for the first time since the early to mid 80s (a report from some younger friends was that the students were very confused by that score and the cheers that it was met with); the band's halftime show was a salute to The Blues Brothers, complete with formations that actually matched the music (a Dodge with moving wheels, a hat and sunglasses). It could have been a show from the mid 80s. Hopefully we'll see more shows like that and less salutes to opera or boy bands like we had last year. I wonder if the annual salute to the school of animal husbandry will return.
-Some extra added food options this year look really yummy. We saw one stand selling roasted corn on the cob. Will definitely have to try that out.
-Overall a pleasant day at the corner of Stadium and Main. We now have six seats together, so my son came and brought his best friend with him (see the picture at the top of the blog). They had a grand time and even paid attention to the game most of the time. I'm not sure this game changes the overall season outlook - the goal is still to get to a bowl game, anything more is gravy.