Michigan vs. Notre Dame Awards

Michigan vs. Notre Dame Awards


September 12, 2011
Junior Hemingway is a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn.

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Fitzgerald Toussaint.  I know last week’s production (11 carries, 80 yards, 2 touchdowns) probably wouldn’t have been replicated due to the fact that Michigan’s offensive line struggled to get a push.  However, Stephen Hopkins got the majority of the carries in Toussaint’s absence, and Hopkins averaged 2.0 yards a carry and fumbled once (his second fumble in 42 career carries).  Toussaint was injured and didn’t play at all, but I’m hoping he can return as soon as safely possible.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Bad Denard Robinson.  Robinson looked awful throwing the ball in the first three quarters.  He was only 2/9 in the first half and 4/14 by the end of the third quarter.  He had some nice drives toward the end of the game and obviously pulled off a huge comeback, but the reason Michigan needed  such a huge comeback was his atrocious play in the first half.  He missed open receiver after open receiver after open receiver despite minimal pressure.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Brandin Hawthorne.  I’m not sure what happened to Brandon Herron, who was injured and didn’t play after being last week’s MVP.  Freshman Desmond Morgan earned the start at weakside linebacker, but didn’t last long.  In came Hawthorne, who looks bigger than his listed 214 lbs., and he picked up 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup.  It’s partly the scheme that allows these WILLs to have good games, but credit goes to Hawthorne and Herron for stepping up when given the opportunity.  Unlike some of the other linebackers, Hawthorne had some nicely timed blitzes without giving away his intentions.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Craig Roh.  Yep, I said it.  I really like(d) Roh, but I’m not sure what’s going on with him.  He hasn’t registered a single tackle yet this year and hasn’t generated any pressure. Jibreel Black (3 tackles) has outplayed him even though Black gets destroyed when teams run right at him.  I’ll be rooting for Black to get the start next week against Eastern Michigan.  Roh was apparently sick during fall camp and he added almost 20 lbs. in the offseason, so whether it’s illness or an inability to move with the added weight, it’s just not working.

MVP of the Notre Dame game . . . Denard Robinson, with a close second being Junior Hemingway.  I really, really, really wanted to pick Hemingway here, but the overall stats for Robinson (338 yards passing, 108 yards rushing, 5 total touchdowns) make it just too overwhelming.  He had 4 touchdown passes and picked up the Hopkins fumble before running it in for a score.  When it got down to crunch time, Robinson was electric.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Hemingway turned out several big plays and two of them were on bad throws by Robinson.  He’s a jump ball specialist and ended the game with 165 yards and 1 touchdown on 3 receptions.

Play of the game . . . Denard Robinson’s recovery of the Stephen Hopkins fumble.  It was the least spectacular of Michigan’s five touchdowns, but with Michigan down 24-7 to begin the fourth quarter, things were looking grim.  If Notre Dame had recovered that fumble after Michigan had driven 82 yards, I don’t know if the Wolverines would have recovered mentally.  Luckily, Robinson was paying attention and had the quickness and dexterity to pick up the ball on the move.  That was the play that set the rally in motion.  There were so many big plays that it’s hard to pick just one (Hemingway’s 43-yard TD, Hemingway’s 77-yard catch-and-run on Denard’s excellent throw, Vincent Smith’s 21-yard TD catch-and-run, Jeremy Gallon’s 64-yard catch-and-run, Gallon’s 14-yard TD reception, Roy Roundtree’s 16-yard TD reception, J.T. Floyd’s touchdown-saving interception, etc.), but that was the biggest in my mind.

21 comments

  1. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Borges needs to give Denard more short throws. ND was loading up inside to stop the run and we weren't trying to keep them honest with bubble screens or the Tebow play action that worked so well last year. Instead, we tried to keep them honest with deep passing and it failed miserably until the 4th quarter. I'm glad that we escaped with a victory, but I hope Borges realizes that Denard needs short throws very soon.

  2. Comments: 21395
    Sep 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:26 a.m.

    I don't know if I agree with that. On most plays, there's a short route, an intermediate route, and a deep route. It's not necessarily Borges's fault that Denard went for the home run so often. Denard showed that he does not discriminate when throwing picks – he can do it on short throws and long throws alike.

  3. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    I'm not sure I agree witht he short throws. The reason they are not there is that the defence is loading up against the run, so there are more defenders closer to the line of scrimmage to defend the short pass. They need to complete more deeper and intermediate passes so the defence cannot stack against the run.

  4. Comments: 21395
    Sep 12, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    I agree Thunder. What in the world is up with Roh? He has been completely absent the first two games. Not only in the stat sheet, but also when you watch him play he is not getting any pressure or anything. It's hard to not be excited for a player like him, but he hasn't proved anything this year at all.

    I really hope he is able to flip the switch and get going. We need him to provide some pressure off the end, otherwise we may be in some deep trouble again.

  5. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Maybe so, but a few spread formations with bubble screens might have worked wonders. Denard threw them well last year, we have good blocking receivers, and we have a few shifty guys who can run after the catch. Denard is a short QB who can't read defenses when he has to drop back and pass. In the first two games, I don't think we have seen a bubble screen or the Tebow play action. Maybe we're saving them for MSU or OSU. I would love Borges's play-calling if we had Darryl Clark as our QB. But with Denard, I'd prefer to see more of the old and less of the new. I think that this will come back to bite us later.

  6. Comments: 21395
    Sep 12, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    @ Anonymous 9:47 a.m.

    It hasn't bitten us so far…and you don't know if it will bite us later. For all we know, we might throw 5 bubble screens a game once the Big Ten season starts.

    The play calling was fine except for one or two plays (the third Denard run in a row was a little much), but I think you're kind of manufacturing complaints at this point. We threw short and had mixed results; we threw long and had mixed results. It doesn't matter whether Denard throws long or short. He's not an accurate passer, period.

  7. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    We had three first downs in the entire first half and you think I'm manufacturing complaints? Our QB completed less than 50% of his passes. Just for reference, he was 24-40 last year against ND in only his second start, and 62.5% on the year despite lots of drops. He ended up in the top 20 nationally in passing efficiency. Saturday night, he threw multiple jump balls to 5'8" Jeremy Gallon, for Chrissakes. We were lucky to win that game and you are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. The only time that Denard looked this bad last year was in the bad weather against Purdue.

    I love Borges's mixing up of plays and the offense's unpredictability, but we're not going to make a living in the Big Ten with the passing attack that we had Saturday night.

  8. Comments: 21395
    Nick.
    Sep 12, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    This was a wild game. I can say that something clicked at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th quarters. You could see Denard get his swagger back and his confidence. Not sure if was the play calling that gave it back to him or something he seen and knew he could exploit. He was definitely out of rhythm and out of focus for the first half of the game.

    Long or short he showed that he needs to be in rhythm to get the game moving at his pace.

  9. Comments: 21395
    Sep 12, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    @ Anonymous 10:31 a.m.

    I'm not saying there's nothing to complain about. There were certainly several issues that Michigan needs to address. But the short throw vs. long throw discussion is a manufactured complaint. It's just not an issue. Denard is inaccurate, whether he's throwing 5 yards (see the pick on the screen pass) or 20 yards (see the jump ball to Gallon that Blanton picked off) or 40 yards (see the errant throws to Hemingway).

    You're right that he was 24/40 last season against Notre Dame…which is only 60%, a decent percentage but not a great one.

    He was also 9/13 against WMU last week, which is 69%. So maybe we shouldn't be so frightened that he had a bad game against Notre Dame. He's clearly capable of playing better…but he sucked for the first three quarters. If it's such a horrible use of his talents, he probably wouldn't have gone 8/11 in fourth quarter crunch time.

  10. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Citing completio percentages doesn't really make your case when it's obvious that a smaller percentage of long passes should be completed. His YPA was pretty damn high.

  11. Comments: 21395
    Painter Smurf
    Sep 12, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Hopefully, Denard's accuracy will improve in a hurry. Whether or not he can hit wide open receivers will determine how UM fares against the Illinois/NW/Iowa's of the conference. The miraculous comeback at ND obscures this problem. I don't think he is being asked to make particularly difficult throws. He has had trouble even dumping off to the TE's and RB's in both games.

  12. Comments: 21395
    Sep 12, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    I agree about the fumble recovery touchdown. It seems to get less hype from the media, but it turned the worst possible thing into the best possible thing in an instant.

  13. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    I knew all this talk in the offseason about Denard's completion percentage being through the roof was going to be short-lived. I've said it before and I'll say it again, passing (especially the deep ball) is the weakest part of Denard's game, and I think we ALL saw that last saturday. All of those 50/50 balls could have very easily ended up in the defenders' hands, and I don't think our luck is going to be this good all season. I'd expect a few more 3+ INT games from Denard in the future.

    THAT said, the receivers in this game certainly did not do Denard any favors. When Roy dropped that ball in the first half, I collapsed in a weepy heap. We have a serious talent issue at WR (and RB and DB and DL…) which I can only hope will be reconciled in this coming class with Payton (fingers crossed) and another WR.

  14. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Kind of forgot how big the Denard fumble scoop was. Yeah, if we get nothing there and they get, well, anything, as well as another ND drive to shave the clock… well, Brian Kelly wouldn't be so purple right now.

    Football is such an amazing game, full of what ifs and random unpredictability. Nothing in the world like it.

  15. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    This will surprise no one who is familiar with my comments here, but I really thought they should get Smith the ball more. Toussaint looked great but Hopkins and Shaw didn't seem to get it done. Smith really made that TD play on his own. He looks awful returning kicks though. On that front, it was good to see Gallon make a nice play on a punt return.

    Hawthorne made a couple great plays IMO. His game, in that environment, is much bigger and more impactful than what Herron did IMO. He should start at WLB. Morgan looked out of place. Interesting that Evans is on the scout team now due to eligibility and Jones seems to be something like 4th string. Who knew…

    Have to agree about Roh. I wondered about his weight gain hurting him as a pass rusher. It seems to have, but maybe he'll hold up better against the run against power teams.

    Thought Campbell made a HUGE play on a late third down. Pretty much blew up the right side of the ND OL. Great and a shocking. Hopefully its a sign of him being a serviceable player against run-oriented teams.

    Really liked the variety of receiving threats we saw. TE and FB and the RB screen, plus of course all the long passes.

  16. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Sep 13, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Our playcalling was a big issue and I think it's holding the current offense back. The problem is not that the plays are bad per se (guys were open a lot), but they are just not good for Denard. He's an inaccurate downfield thrower and a horrible decision-maker on the deepball. Yet, we were continually running guys deep even in a tight game.

    I just think for the next two years we have to include some of the bread-and-butter plays from last year that used Denard's legs to open up the pass, and limit the downfield passes. If Denard isn't a threat to run on almost every play, we're doing something wrong.

    It is pretty clear right now that the offense relies almost solely on the big play. That luck will dry up, and we'll have to find a way to have an offense that can get more than 3 first downs in the first half.

  17. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    @ Anonymous 1:50 p.m.

    Denard threw the deep ball quite a bit last year, too – and every offense has at least one downfield option on just about every play. There were short receivers, too…it's just that Denard didn't hit them. Ever. Why is it Borges's fault that Denard refuses to check down most of the time?

    Additionally, Denard was specifically asked to throw a short pass on Saturday (the first screen to Smith). Not only did he allow it to get picked off, but his throwing mechanics were A-W-F-U-L. He didn't even look before he threw it, and his body was pointing to the left.

  18. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:54 p.m.

    I think Smith is being used exactly as he should on offense. He's getting an occasional touch, and he's been effective. He's much more effective as a change-of-pace/third down back than as an every down back.

    You've GOT to be kidding about Herron/Hawthorne. A dude who made 6 tackles and 1 TFL was more important than a dude who scored 2 touchdowns and made 8 tackles? I agree that Hawthorne looked solid, but let's not be ridiculous.

    I thought Campbell looked pretty solid, too. I noticed one play where he got pushed around, but I noticed a couple plays where he really got a push. I'm hoping the light goes on soon.

  19. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Re:Smith, I think change of pace is fine if you're comparing to Toussaint, but I think anyone else and Smith is just as effective as an I-form 1st and 10 back. He looks like he gained back some of his elusiveness to me and is a reliable back. Hopkins may be bigger but he's the same kind of back as Smith that isn't going to break a big play off very often. If comparing to Shaw, whatever, not going to rehash that. Smith's a legitimate receiving threat back there and Shaw's a big play threat too. I'm fine with either guy. To me, Fitz is clearly the primary back, but he just hasn't stayed healthy.

    Re: Hawthorne, not joking at all. The 2 TDs literally fell into Herron's hands. Its great that he's faster than Western's players and all but I want a LB with instincts and playmaking. Hawthorne showed that. He sliced through the OL like a pro on the TFL and looked good on blitzes too. I'm betting he grades out in UFR way better than Herron did in Week 1 and thats with competition that isn't even close. I won't pretend to know who is better in coverage, but Hawthorne looked like an impact player to me, while Herron looked like a guy in the right place at the right time.

  20. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    @ Lankownia 2:36 p.m.

    I agree that Smith looks quicker/faster than he did last year. But he still doesn't break any tackles when he's going through the line. He's an excellent shifty target in the open field, though.

    Hawthorne might be the better player in the long term, but that doesn't mean what he did is more valuable. It was a 7-7 tie with WMU when Herron grabbed that pass and ran 94 yards for a TD. Either way, I don't give a damn about the UFR. Brian gives out those scores randomly, depending on how he feels each day and whether he likes a certain player or not.

  21. Comments: 21395
    Sep 13, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    RE: UFR, well yeah, it shouldn't be taken as gospel, but it's a decent indicator. Tackles and numerous other statistics are pretty random outcomes too. If you're a front-7 player who is filling his assigned gap, you might not get the stat. If you pressure the QB into an incompletion by making a timely blitz, you might not get a stat. If you just stand where you are 8 yards back of the LOS and get plowed into by a big back you might get a tackle.

    UFR is the best publicly available source for individual performance that I'm aware of. Plus, it sounds from interviews that it's not far off the coaching staff's system of giving points on individual plays (I doubt they hand out negatives in the same way though.)

    Re: Herron, describing what he did as "grabbed that pass" is generous. He stood where he was and it landed in his hands. That situation is unlikely to occur again this season. Meanwhile, Hawthorne reading the run play and aggressively slicing through the line could happen several times a game for the rest of the year.

    I think we've reach the agree to disagree phase of this discussion but, while I agree the Herron TD was a more important play, I don't attribute much of that play to the guy who got the credit. Same way I'm not going to give a ton of credit to Mike Shaw for (in the WMU game) running through a hole that literally any D1 running back could have had a 30 yard gain on. Sometimes people make their own luck (i.e. the instigate the outcome), other times they're just lucky.

    I give those guys credit for executing what they were supposed to do, but Ryan leaping into the air to bat the ball made that play for Herron and the OL blocking that run made the play for Shaw.

    I'm not willing to call the guy who won the lotto a financial genius, even if he has the stats (bank account) to make the claim.

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