I wasn’t able to watch the game live yesterday. After getting home at 12:15 a.m. from Friday night’s game, I was back at the football complex by 6:45 a.m. Then we had a full day of practice, film, and meetings before I left at 3:30 p.m. That’s pretty standard for Saturdays, so unless Michigan plays a 3:30 game or a night game, I have to watch it later. The first time I checked the score on my phone, though, it was 17-14 and UMass was leading. Usually I like to watch games live, but I was probably better off this way. It would have been extremely frustrating to watch that game live.
So these thoughts are coming from the perspective of a guy who already knew the final score:
Notre Dame is stupid. I don’t understand what Notre Dame was trying to do last week. UMass certainly wasn’t able to shut down Denard Robinson (104 yards rushing, 241 yards passing, 3 total touchdowns), but they did a better job than the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame had much better athletes, and they should have sold out to keep Robinson’s gains to a minimum. It would have been difficult for Notre Dame to lock up with Michigan’s four- and five-wide looks since Brian Kelly’s squad had limited depth and speed at the safety positions, but it would have been worth a try. It would have been better to have Zeke Motta covering Roy Roundtree than to let Robinson run for 244 yards.
Vincent Smith can’t get it done. I know he came in early and worked hard. I know he’s coming off ACL surgery. I know he’s a willing blocker. I know he has good hands. He just can’t be a feature back in the Big Ten. Good running backs have to be able to create for themselves in open space, and Smith just hasn’t shown that ability. When evaluating Smith’s performance last year, I typically excluded his stats against Delaware State because . . . you know . . . that was just an unfair fight. Sans DSU Smith had 31 carries for 110 yards and 0 touchdowns. This year including FCS school Umass, Smith has 32 carries for 110 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown. Smith isn’t the best back on the team, and honestly, he might even be the fourth-best (behind Michael Shaw, Michael Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint). Michael Shaw averaged over 10 yards a carry, but he got only one more attempt than Smith in yesterday’s game (12 to 11).
Michigan needs to stop scheduling FCS teams. I said this prior to the 2007 game against Appalachian State, and I’m still saying it. Playing FCS teams is a no-win situation. If Michigan wins, they’re supposed to win and they don’t earn any respect. If Michigan loses, it’s a giant blow to the team’s confidence and reputation. I’m sure there are plenty of lower-tier FBS schools (from the MAC, the Sun Belt, the WAC, etc.) who would take a big payday and go home with a probable loss. Michigan’s loss against Toledo in 2008 was the Wolverines’ first against a MAC school ever, but that loss doesn’t resonate nearly as loudly as Michigan’s failure against Appalachian State the year before. Athletic director doesn’t need to go dumpster diving with these FCS schools.
Denard Robinson showed a little bit of touch. Robinson showed something against UMass that he hadn’t shown in the first two games of the season, and that was the ability to put touch on a long ball. The Wolverines rolled the pocket right against a Cover Zero look, and Robinson dropped in a rainbow to Darryl Stonum, who was streaking down the left sideline. There hasn’t been much to criticize about Robinson’s play over the first few games, but that play answered some questions. If teams in the future give Michigan a Cover Zero look or a Man Free defense, hopefully Robinson can take advantage.
The lack of defensive depth is apparent. Massachusetts held the ball for 37:38 compared to 22:22 for Michigan. But Michigan didn’t make a single substitution in the defensive backfield – TJ Floyd, James Rogers, Jordan Kovacs, and Cameron Gordon were the only DBs to play. Even if all those guys are in great shape, it’s asking a lot to have them out there for almost two-thirds of the game. Only 37 scholarships are currently being used by defensive players, and 13 of those are true freshmen.
Michigan’s offensive team speed is ridiculous. I’d be willing to bet that this is the fastest team Michigan has ever put on the field. Even Michigan’s “slow” receiver Roy Roundtree was able to run away from the UMass defense for a touchdown (which would be called back). Denard Robinson, Darryl Stonum, Michael Shaw, and Martavious Odoms are the burners, but all these guys can run. There are only a couple skill position guys whose speed is mediocre, but those guys haven’t been on the field much.
A win is a win . . . I guess. I’m mildly upset about the score and yardage totals. While I’m certain that the actual talent differential between Michigan and UMass is more than five points, the performance on the field leaves some questions. In the years to come, not many people will remember that Michigan almost lost to UMass. This is temporarily upsetting, but that will wear off. I can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t learn anything new from this game – Michigan’s offense is explosive, the defense is terrible, and the special teams are mediocre at best.
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