Michigan 42, Indiana 35

Michigan 42, Indiana 35

October 3, 2010

You can close your eyes and pray all you want, #46, but you’re not gonna catch him.

  Yesterday’s victory was at once entertaining, frustrating, and boring.  The entertainment factor was apparent: Michigan put up 574 yards and 42 points on a Big Ten team, with quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Denard Robinson accounting for 494 of those yards.  The frustration part was apparent, too: Michigan allowed 568 yards and 35 points to a perennial Big Ten cellar dweller, and Indiana held the ball for over 41 minutes.

The boring part was less obvious, but throughout the entire game, I knew Michigan was going to win this game.  I’ve rarely been this confident during a contest, but I feel I’ve reached a near level of zen when it comes to watching this Michigan team.  Michigan’s offense will score loads of points as long as Denard Robinson is at the helm, and Michigan’s defense sucks.  I no longer hope for competence from Michigan’s defense.  They are overmatched and there’s virtually no hope for them to improve this season.  Sure, they’ll make a timely sack once in awhile (Mike Martin) or flash some anticipation in the secondary that results in an interception (Cam Gordon).  But ultimately, both defenses yesterday were atrocious and Michigan’s offense is better.  A 7-point margin is . . . just about right.

Some praise and a few gripes . . .

Denard Robinson is awesome.  I feel like I say this in almost every post, but there’s no getting around it.  He is having one of the best statistical seasons in college football history and is currently on pace to run (2,353) and throw (2,621) for 2,000 yards and account for 39 touchdowns over a 13-game season.  The easiest part of the schedule has passed, so I don’t expect that Robinson will maintain his torrid pace.  Regardless, the first five starts of his career must be on par with or better than every other quarterback in NCAA history.

Michigan’s defense is bad.  This was noted above, but there’s no reason to expect significant improvement in the second half of the season.  I heard Michigan’s official motto is “Let’s hope the other team drops the ball or something.”  After Saturday’s game Michigan is ranked #120 (out of 120 teams) in pass defense, giving up 307.8 yards a game in the air.  Michigan is also #88 in sacks, #88 in net punting, #99 in punt returns, #102 in total defense, and #104 in kickoff returns.  Basically, Michigan is bad at everything that doesn’t involve offense.  And the Wolverines haven’t even played the tough part of their schedule.

Michigan’s goalline offense needs rethinking.  Roy Roundtree caught a 74-yard pass that took the ball down to Indiana’s 2-yard line.  On first down, Michigan lined up in the I-formation and shot a BB at Indiana’s defense in the form of 5’6″, 180 lb. Vincent Smith.  That didn’t work.  Then Michigan lined up in the I-formation again, and the center-quarterback exchange was promptly fumbled, providing Indiana the chance to drive 99 yards for a touchdown (on which Indiana capitalized).  Rich Rodriguez has a 6’0″, 211 lb. tailback (Michael Cox) and a 6’1″, 227 lb. tailback (Stephen Hopkins) at his disposal.  That personnel decision makes no sense whatsoever.

Vincent Smith had a good game.  I don’t think anyone has been more critical of Vincent Smith than I have.  It’s not that I dislike him or think he’s a horrible player, but I just think there are better options.  Against Indiana he had a 56-yard touchdown run on which he was nearly untouched.  Altogether he had 9 carries for 80 yards and the touchdown.  After five games, here’s how Smith stacks up against the rest of the Big Ten’s (and Notre Dame’s) leading rushers, listed according to yards per carry:

1. Edwin Baker (Michigan State): 75 carries, 536 yards, 7.1 ypc, 5 TDs
2. John Clay (Wisconsin): 94 carries, 581 yards, 6.2 ypc, 6 TDs
3. Mikel Leshoure (Illinois): 77 carries, 478 yards, 6.2 ypc, 3 TDs
4. Dan Dierking (Purdue): 38 carries, 205 yards, 5.4 ypc, 2 TDs
5. Evan Royster (Penn State): 67 carries, 353 yards, 5.3 ypc, 1 TD
6. Adam Robinson (Iowa): 98 carries, 480 yards, 4.9 ypc, 6 TDs
7. Armando Allen (Notre Dame): 80 carries, 392 yards, 4.9 ypc, 2 TDs
8. Vincent Smith (Michigan): 53 carries, 252 yards, 4.8 ypc, 4 TDs
9. Dan Herron (Ohio State): 65 carries, 287 yards, 4.4 ypc, 5 TDs
10. Duane Bennett (Minnesota): 91 carries, 400 yards, 4.4 ypc, 2 TDs

11. Darius Willis (Indiana): 64 carries, 278 yards, 4.3 ypc, 3 TDs
12. Arby Fields (Northwestern): 56 carries, 160 yards, 2.9 ypc, 1 TD

For what it’s worth, prior to this week Smith was averaging 3.9 yards per carry, which would have put him at #11.  Against varying levels of competition, Michael Shaw (5.6 ypc) would be #4, Stephen Hopkins (4.7 ypc) would be #9, and Michael Cox (9.3 ypc) would be #1.  So there is some statistical backing for my argument that Michigan’s starting running back position needs to show some more productivity.

Indiana fans are tools.  Unless something odd happened in the stadium that wasn’t caught on camera, it sure seemed like the fans in Bloomington cheered when Denard Robinson fell to the ground injured.  On the one hand, it’s certainly a backhanded compliment, like “Hooray, we might have a chance to win this game if he sits out the rest of it!”  On the other – and far more important – hand, it was a classless response from the Hoosier crowd.  You don’t cheer when someone gets hurt, period.

Junior Hemingway is slow but good, I guess.  Hemingway caught a slant from Denard Robinson that he turned into a 70-yard touchdown.  After he broke the cornerback’s tackle and got up to full speed in the open field, I started wondering, “Did he pull a muscle?”  Nope, that’s just how Hemingway runs.  It was reminiscent of Roy Roundtree’s 76-yard catch against Illinois in 2009, on which Roundtree was run down by Terry Hawthorne.  Luckily, Indiana’s defense isn’t very fast, either.  Hemingway also made a clutch 42-yard reception near the end of regulation that set up Robinson’s game-winning touchdown, and finished with 3 catches for 126 yards and 1 touchdown.

Jordan Kovacs must hate Darius Willis.  Last year Darius Willis outran Kovacs (among others) for an 85-yard touchdown.  This year Willis caught a pass in the flat, shook Kovacs on the sideline, and trotted in for a touchdown.  Kovacs is normally a sure tackler, but I have to admit, the thing that ran through my mind was “If he can’t tackle and he can’t run fast, why is he out there?”  That was just a fleeting thought, though, because Kovacs is probably one of the better tacklers on the team.

Roy Roundtree should get the #1 jersey next year.  Prior to the season, I predicted that Roundtree would get 60 catches and 900 yards this year.  Through five games, he’s on pace for 65 catches and 876 yards, which is pretty darn close.  If he continues in this vein, then I think he deserves to wear the #1 jersey in 2011.  He’s a likeable, hardworking kid, he’s successful on both long and short passes, he’s a willing blocker, and he has a knack for getting open.  He might not be the physical freak that Michigan is used to seeing out of its #1 wide receivers (6’3″, 215 lb. guys who can jump high and run really fast), but Michigan fans couldn’t ask for much more out of him.

Taylor Lewan better learn quickly.  We’ve been hearing for months that Lewan is a bit of a hothead.  His emotions could have cost Michigan the game on Saturday, though.  After Denard Robinson scored a touchdown to put Michigan up 41-35 with 17 seconds left in the game, Lewan was trying to get over to Robinson to celebrate.  Supposedly an Indiana player on the ground tried to trip Lewan, which resulted in an altercation and a 15-yard penalty on Lewan.  I don’t care what an opponent tries to do – there’s no good excuse for getting a 15-yard penalty when your team scores the potential game-winning touchdown.  If he trips you, fall to the ground, get up, and go celebrate.  What, you’ve never been tripped before?  Were you afraid that he ruined your pretty maize pants?  Suck it up, and think about the team first.  And while you’re at it, you might want to learn how to block without holding.  On the game-winning drive, he should have been called for holding at least twice that I saw on television.

Michigan found a way to win.  Regardless of what went down from the starting whistle to the final whistle, Michigan won the game.  The offense was mostly awesome, and the defense did just enough to win.  There are definitely some things to fix or tweak, but when it comes down to it, the Wolverines’ record is 5-0.  Go Blue!


  1. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    I'm guessing the staff chooses to use Smith on the goalline not for his size, but for their faith in his ability to hold onto the ball or not mess up a blocking assignment.

    Against Indiana the power/heavy play might work, but against Ohio State and Wisconsin, I doubt it fits Michigan's personnel (O-line I mean) to try to stuff it in. The short TD to Koger was a nice call.

    Won't rehash this again in detail but Smith, ypc…LOL. I'm not sure he can ever make you happy.

    I love Roundtree and have no problem with a slot or smaller or slower WR that doesn't fit the NFL prototype mold gets the #1 jersey. That said, I think Roundtree is a long way from earning it. I'd rather no one got it for now. I view the #1 as a distinction for a game-breaking talent. Roundtree is an Avant – good player, reliable, likable, but he isn't in the all-american/all-conference conversation that I want the #1 WR to be. Its a cool tradition that shouldn't be marginalized. Maybe the powers that be can just award it to Denard, since his legs put all the WR in single coverage every play.

    The thing I notice about Kovacs is that, even when he comes in HARD, he just kind of bounces off people. It seems like it should be a jarring hit but the offensive player hardly budges. Kovacs just doesn't have the size to be a big hit player. Not saying he isn't good, he just can't intimidate like some other Safeties can.

    Agree with the assessment of the D. They have to try to contain and hope the opponent fails to execute. Sometimes it'll work but other times…oy. Cousins terrifies me. He may not quite be up to Chappel's class in passing ability, but he can run for big gains. I think Michigan's fighting an uphill battle there. MSU's offense can execute, and their D has enough talent to keep our offense (relatively in check). Michigan's favored in this game, but if I was to ever bet against them, this would be the game. Hopefully I'm wrong.

    With Caper sitting at 3rd string and Michigan's RB situation lacking a clear #1 back, I wonder if he's thinking twice about his college choice…probably not.

  2. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    Hi Magnus,
    Hope your season is going well.

    Can you think of any plausible explanation of why Cullen Christenson and Marvin Robinson did not see the field aside from "not good enough yet?"

    Also, it's disappointing to hear you state that the defense doesn't have a shot to improve this year. They've shown flashes and also have a few legit playmakers (Martin, Roh, Mouton). Don't you think that the Gordons, Johnson, Rogers and the freshman corners could improve quite a bit, thereby improving the defense considerably?

  3. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 10:48 PM

    Can anyone think of any plausable explanations as to why Cullen and Marvin did not see playing time, aside from "are not good yet?"

    Also, Magnus, I do think that this defense has the potential to improve this season, possibly progressing from terrible to bad. Many young, talented players will benefit from PT, such as the Gordons, Johnson and the freshmen.

    But I agree with the above post: how the hell are we favored by 5 points next week? It doesn't look too good for us, IMO.

  4. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 10:54 PM

    This Damn delayed post business has made me look like a fool!!!! ha ha

  5. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    Good call omitting last names on post 2.0. They're tricky.

  6. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    @ Lankownia

    It doesn't do much good to "not mess up a play" or "block well" if Smith can't score a TD on short yardage plays. Besides, the last I knew, not scoring equals messing up a play.

    Smith can make me happy if he busts out more 56-yard touchdown runs. Other than that 56-yarder, he had 8 carries for 24 yards. He didn't exactly light the world on fire.

    I think you're short-changing Roundtree by saying he's not a gamebreaker. He had two gamebreaker-type catches against Indiana (the TD and the 74-yarder) and a big TD against Notre Dame. He's had two 100-yard games. He's been a non-factor in two games, but one of those was when he got destroyed by a UConn corner and knocked out of the game.

    I don't think Larry Caper was ever really recruited by Michigan. He might be regretting his decision to go to MSU, but he didn't really have the option to choose U-M.

  7. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    @ Andrew

    Cullen Christian has been playing the outside corner position, so I don't think he's really an option for the nickel/dime corner positions being played by Talbott and Avery. Robinson is probably a little too raw to play against such a potent passing attack.

    As far as the defense goes, the reason I don't think this defense will improve is because a) they're bad and b) the competition will only improve. Michigan's defense might be able to do better against a UMass-like team down the stretch due to the added experience, but there's not another UMass on the schedule; instead, we've got Wisconsin, OSU, PSU, MSU, etc.

  8. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:33 PM


    You say that there is no "UMass" type team at the end of our schedule. What about Purdue, with the injuries they've suffered, and the way the've looked the past couple of weeks, isn't this the type of offense our D should show improvement against.

  9. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:37 PM

    @ Anonymous 7:33 p.m.

    Maybe…but if our defense "improves" only against Purdue – a team that Michigan should beat, anyway – then does it really matter? The improvement is necessary for Wisconsin, OSU, etc. We have to take positive steps against the cream of the crop, not just the cellar dwellers.

  10. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    For what it's worth, prior to this week Smith was averaging 3.9 yards per carry, which would have put him at #11. Against varying levels of competition, Michael Shaw (5.6 ypc) would be #4, Stephen Hopkins (4.7 ypc) would be #9, and Michael Cox (9.3 ypc) would be #1. So there is some statistical backing for my argument that Michigan's starting running back position needs to show some more productivity.
    C'mon, dude. Enough cherry picking. You talk up Mike Cox so much and try to muscle his stats over Vinny's, but it's not working – nor will it ever. If they thought Cox could provide something Smith couldn't, they'd utilize him. As it is, it was true freshman Stephen Hopkins entering the game in certain situations yesterday(despite no carries), and NOT Cox. Let it go. He's never done anything to merit praise outside of running into wide open holes against the dregs of college football.

    Meanwhile, Smith has been a solid runner and a bluechip blocker and receiver for RichRod. Enough with the Mike Cox business. Move on.

  11. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    Mike Cox would be #1 in the Big Ten on average yards per carry…

    But his body of work consists of 6 carries, every single one of them against Bowling Green. Sample size, man.

    (not to get into the fact that there's probably a reason the coaches won't put him into any game except against Tomato Can U – seeing as that's the only type of opponent he's played in his entire career).

  12. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:48 PM

    @ Anonymous 7:42 p.m.

    "Enough cherry picking."

    Who's cherry picking? Those are the players' stats for the entirety of 2010. If anyone's cherry picking, it's you and your dismissal of statistics that Cox earned because of the opponent.

    "Move on."

    I'll decide what I write on my blog. If I think someone is better than someone else, I'll say it. But thanks for your kindly suggestion.

  13. Comments: 21384
    Oct 03, 2010 at 11:57 PM

    Those are the players' stats for the entirety of 2010.
    That's cherry picking, kind sir. His "stats for the entirety of the 2010" would also show Fitzgerald Toussaint averages way more YPC than Denard Robinson, and should thus be considered our best option running the ball. That's how shallow your argument is. It's in the kiddie pool with turds floating all around it. C'mon.

    Write what you want, just realize continuously saying "I'm not DOING THIS, YOU are DOING THIS because you're dismissing my terrible recognition of sample size and respect for Bowling Green's 3rd string" is bound to damage your credibility. Nobody on Michigan's coaching staff thinks he should be in the game over a true freshman. Think deeply about this and get back to me.

  14. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    "Nobody on Michigan's coaching staff thinks he should be in the game over a true freshman. Think deeply about this and get back to me."

    And yet…coaches have been wrong before, haven't they?

    Just some food for thought, here are their numbers against common opponents (EMU, DSU, and BGSU):

    Smith: 31 carries, 238 yards, 7.7 ypc
    Cox: 19 carries, 169 yards, 8.9 ypc

    This will be my last response on this post about Vincent Smith vs. Other Running Backs. It's been hashed and rehashed and rerehashed on here.

  15. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 12:13 AM

    Right. They both post good numbers against common, crappy opponents. Again worth mentioning is that Vinny often did it against 1st and 2nd stringers, and Cox just played whoever else they had left on the roster.

    And there's a huge disparity in uncommon opponents, because Vinny Smith has actually earned a place at the table and he's running for TDs against actual competition. But yeah, you can always hang on to the "the coaches could be wrong" schtick when all the evidence blows up in your face.

  16. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    lol @ anonymous' "cherrypicking" comment. i do not think that word means what you think it means

  17. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 3:17 AM

    Dude, Magnus, you need to give up the beating of the Mike Cox drum. The coaching staff clearly has no faith in him given that he didn't get a single carry against an awful run defense yesterday. If they thought Cox could offer an improvement over Smith, or a complement to him, he would have gotten a chance.

    Yes the coaching staff has made mistakes before, but typically when that happens, they recognize and correct them (most notably Sheridan over Threet). Guess what? You make mistakes too (Tate over Denard), and when you do, you recognize them. This is one of those mistakes. The coaching staff has made the decision that Cox's numbers against Bowling Green and Delaware St. don't justify him getting carries against real teams. We all need to move on.

  18. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 3:46 AM

    Defending my fellow anonymous, it seems his use of cherry picking was correct. So you fail, other anonymous.

  19. Comments: 21384
    Michael S
    Oct 04, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    One more point about the RB issue:
    With Denard at QB, it seems like blocking is the most important task for our RBs. Smith and Shaw may not be the best runners, but they both block really well. It might be that once the other backs figure out their blocking assignments we'll see more of them.

  20. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    I swear that other anonymous guy isn't me, but I totally agree with him.

    At some point I'll stop being lazy and take a look at the distribution of Smith, Shaw, and other's rush attempts and see if anything meaningful can come out of that. Average is generally a weak stat, but its appropriate in NFL football because overall the median gain is universally equal and so YPC is just used as an indicator of the only real differentiator between backs — big play ability. I'm not sure the same thing applies.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that I suspect there is more to RB value than big play capability. This Indiana game was a case study in how consistency and reliability (Indiana's offense against our D) can be very important as compared to big play ability (our O against their D). Not saying one is better than the other (I'll take our O any day), but that the reliability element has value.

    Outside of that whole debate, theres also blocking and pass receiving, which I don't think we have a real good feel for as fans and have to trust the coaches a little bit, even if we should do so with a grain of salt, as Thunder, fairly, points out.

  21. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Typically a short-yardage play is more about the OL than the RB, IMO. I'm not sure you can blame Smith for not pounding it in. That said, I have no problem pulling him for a bigger back on the goalline.

  22. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Caper was offered by Michigan, but I don't think they pursued him as hard as MSU did…perhaps because he was always reported to lean to sparty

  23. Comments: 21384
    Oct 04, 2010 at 6:37 PM

    RE: Roundtree: His lack of speed is evident. It basically cost us the Illinois game last year, and almost cost us the Indiana game this year. (Its never just about one play, but if he doesn't get caught on those plays we maybe/probably get 7 extra points that don't make these gains seem so bad) Speed and big play ability has been hailed in this blog (Shaw on O and the critiques for Gordon/Kovacs on D) but Roundtree has gotten a bit of a free pass.

    Most of Roundtree's big plays are the result of Denard and scheme. He runs, untouched, thanks to the defense's attention being elsewhere. He's a good player (that ND catch to get to the goalline was the best play of his career IMO) but he's benefiting from circumstance. Odoms was pretty productive in the same role and Grady has had some big plays in the backup guy.
    The slots all have a similar YPC, while Stonum, TRob, and Hemingway all have bigger YPC.

    I'm not saying Roundtree should be benched, I'm just wondering why the love for Roundtree is so strong but another productive/reliable player like Smith gets killed.

    If you don't want to talk about Smith again, don't. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, I'm just discussing. You do a good job replying to all the comments in general, so feel free to ignore this one if.

    Keep up the good work.

  24. Comments: 21384
    Oct 05, 2010 at 2:43 AM

    @ Lankownia 2:37 p.m.

    I turned this comment into a mailbag question that will appear tomorrow morning. Hopefully my answer is in depth enough to explain my thoughts.

  25. Comments: 21384
    Oct 05, 2010 at 3:52 AM

    Denard has turned an average Michigan team into a top team in the Big 10 and put him as the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy. The guy is putting up amazing stats this season already.

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