Sunday, November 7, 2010

Who needs defense?

Lon Horwedl /

One of the reasons I enjoy having football season tickets is that even in the midst of disappointing seasons you get these moments and games that are pure magic. In the middle of our first rose bowl less season in four years, 1979, we got Wangler to Carter, the greatest play in the first 100 years of Michigan football. In the middle of the Year of Infinite Pain, 2005, we got Manningham's dagger in the heart of Penn State. Even the awful 3-9 2008 campaign produced a comeback for the ages against Wisconsin.
That's what saturday's game was. Put aside all the disappointment from the last three games, all the concerns about the defense, all the speculation of will he stay? or will he go? and just enjoy an entertaining game. It was interesting that we heard little if any booing during the game. Sure there were no shortage of sarcastic comments or cheers, including a hearty round of "Save your job, Save your job" during the first overtime, but there wasn't the booing or "We want Harbaugh" chants we heard at the iowa game. Maybe the first play TD strike to Roundtree placated the fans a little. Or maybe we've just moved past the anger and depression stages of grieving for our defense and moved on to acceptance. Illinois just scored on a 60 yard run. So what? We know our defense sucks, when's the offense coming back out on the field?
Long ago, when I was much younger and was particularly down that my plans in life didn't seem to be working out, a good friend told me, "If you can't figure out a plan for life, just figure out a plan for today." So we take this approach going forward - the big picture will take care of itself, we will focus on each game, trying to get as much enjoyment out of the four(!) remaining Michigan football games as we can and worry about the big picture items later.
Other thoughts:
-Any doubts the last three games might have created about this offense were emphatically erased by this game. The Illini were the #15 defense in the country and hadn't given up more than 26 points in any game this year, despite playing three top ten teams, Missouri, OSU, and MSU. We got that in a half. The hadn't given up more than 390 yards in any one game this year, we got 386 in the first half. There is no doubt that as long as Rich Rod stays here, we will have one of the best offenses in the country.
-Despite the massive numbers, I acutally thought there were signs of progress on defense. Craig Roh is much better as a Dlineman than a LB. Courtney Avery palyed well, and made a good open field tackle on a player that was very similar to the one against Iowa that he missed and allowed them to get their last field goal. Finally, I think Cam Gordon is a better fit at the Spur position than at safety because of his size.
-I loved the reverse on the kickoff but don't understand why Jeremy Gallon is allowed to continue to return kicks after he fumbles one. I also think that we should be onside kicking every once an a while. With our defense, the opposition can (and will) score from almost anywhere. Why not take a chance on getting the ball back? If they are going to bring in new defensive coaches, they should consider finding one or two who have experience coaching special teams.
-I hope Tate Forcier realizes how important a good backup QB is in this offense. At the start of the year, all the buzz was about Denard and how he was a one man offense. In this game (and to a lesser extent the Iowa game), Tate showed that this offense is lethal no matter who is pulling the trigger. If he comes back next year, we will have the best QB situation in the country.
-Nice to see Michael Shaw back at something approaching 100%. Vincent Smith ran a lot better because he didn't have to shoulder all (or most) of the load.
-The receivers had a very nice game (obviously). We don't have that one dominant reciever that we had in the past with Braylon or Manningham, but we might have as much depth there as we've had in a long long time.
-Hurry back Carl Grapentine. The substitute PA guy was awful.
-I think it's safe to cross Arizona off the list of teams that could possibly beat Oregon. They were dominated by Stanford and have to travel to Eugene in three weeks. After a game at Cal, who just won their first road game of the year at Washington State, this weekend, they get a bye, Arizona at home, and then must travel to Corvallis to play Oregon State. Interestingly enough, the Beavers have already played (and lost to) TCU and Boise State. The season ending tilt against the Nike Ducks might be the last chance those two teams have to reach the championship game.
-Another classic game in Baton Rouge. it's too bad they won't get a chance to play in the SEC championship game, because I think they might be the best team in the league.