Michigan vs. Ohio State Awards

Tag: Denard Robinson


29Nov 2010
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Michigan vs. Ohio State Awards

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Denard Robinson.  What?  Yeah, you read that correctly.  I hope that in years to come, Robinson can stay healthier than he did this year.  Earlier in the year, I wanted Robinson to run the ball less.  On Saturday, I wanted him to run the ball a lot.  Well, he ran 18 times for 105 yards, but dislocated a couple fingers on his left hand and missed most of the second half.  Sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Butterfingers Roundtree.  I’m not sure what happened to one of my favorite players on this year’s team, Roy Roundtree.  He was perhaps the most dependable receiver on the team over about the first nine games of the season, but dropped a couple passes in games 10 and 11, then dropped five passes (I think) against Ohio State.  He had several chances to make critical catches and couldn’t seem to keep his focus for some reason.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Courtney Avery.  The presence of Avery might allow Troy Woolfolk to return to free safety in 2011.  I really like what I’ve seen from him in the second half of this season.  He needs to get stronger and work on his tackling, but I look forward to seeing him develop over the next few years.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Greg Robinson.  Bye, Coach Robinson.  I hope you land on your feet somewhere.  A lot of people are mad at you, but I kind of feel sorry for you.  Maybe at your next destination, the head coach won’t force you to run a style of defense that you don’t understand.

MVP of the Ohio State game . . . Jordan Kovacs.  I know I mentioned yesterday that I wish Kovacs had tossed the ball to a more athletic teammate after he intercepted a pass at the end of the second quarter, but Kovacs played a solid game.  He ended the day with 17 tackles and the interception.  Good for him.

28Nov 2010
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Ohio State 37, Michigan 7



This probably won’t make you feel better, but I tried.


Some bullet points the day after . . .

The 4-man front was better.  I’m not going to rail against the 3-3-5 as a scheme.  Unlike what many people think, the 3-3-5 stack can work against all kinds of offenses.  However, Michigan doesn’t have the personnel or the coordinator to do it successfully.  I got a tip from a helpful insider prior to the game that Michigan would run more 4-man fronts this week, and that proved to be true.  I might be wrong, but it seemed like Michigan reverted to the 3-3-5 more as the game went along, and the defense got worse.  Regardless, bouncing back and forth between defenses week after week is a ridiculous philosophy.  I wish Michigan had run a 4-man front all year long, like I advocated prior to the season.

Denard Robinson can’t do it by himself.  Somebody else needs to step up and make some plays.  Yes, he fumbled the ball in the red zone in the first quarter (a play in which he carried the ball in the wrong hand, something I pointed out two months ago), but running backs and receivers need to make plays, too.  I’ve been supportive of Roy Roundtree all year long and he’s actually exceeded my expectations, but this was a game he likely wants to forget.  By last count, I think he dropped 5 balls yesterday (although a couple should have been flagged for defensive pass interference).

Vincent Smith meh.  Does Vincent Smith have some kind of blackmail material on Rich Rodriguez?  Smith and Michael Shaw each had 8 carries, but Smith had 17 yards and Shaw had 53.  How does that make any sense whatsoever?  Smith has been improving over the past few weeks, but holy jeebus.  Even Fitzgerald Toussaint – who can best be described as “mostly injured” – came in and almost outrushed Vincent Smith on only four carries.  Here’s a hint, Coach Rodriguez: if you’re going to run the ball up the middle, put in somebody, anybody, other than Smith.  If you’re going to pass the ball or run the zone stretch to the outside, put Smith in there.  It’s really not that hard.  Oh, and by the way, Coach, if Vincent Smith “isn’t a fumbler” (your words, not mine) then why has he fumbled in – correct me if I’m wrong – five out of the last six games?

Jordan Kovacs, meet the lateral.  Okay, so the first half is ending.  Time has run out, but the ball is still alive.  It’s in the hands of one Jordan Kovacs, a former walk-on with a great deal of gumption and not much in the way of athleticism, who has intercepted a Terrelle Pryor pass and is weaving his way down the field in hopes of scoring a touchdown.  Should he a) lateral the ball to a speedier, more athletic teammate or b) keep the ball and get tackled?  I really wanted him to pick “a.”  He chose “b.”  This is an example of why Kovacs, in my opinion, can’t be on the field if Michigan wants to field an elite defense.  I understand that he’s the best strong safety on the roster this year, and I’m fine with that.  But if you’re looking for reasons that Michigan lacks the ability to stop an offense, consider that perhaps the defense’s third or fourth best player is a walk-on safety who is literally the last player in the secondary that you want having the ball in that situation.

You know who shouldn’t be playing free safety?  Well, you might know.  But the coaches don’t.  That person would be Courtney Avery.  Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Let’s play a tiny true freshman at free safety who usually plays cornerback, but is a year removed from being almost exclusively a high school quarterback.  Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.  Especially if you ask Dan Herron, who thoroughly enjoyed his 32-yard touchdown run right past a poorly angled, overmatched Avery.

Like Nostradamus I am.  After Michigan’s punt that rolled down to Ohio State’s 2-yard line, I swear to God, I said, “This is going to be a 98-yard touchdown run.”  I can’t prove it because I said it to myself because I don’t like watching Michigan games with other people, but I said it.  Of course, it wasn’t a 98-yard touchdown run – Dane Sanzenbacher got called for a hold at Michigan’s 9-yard line.

Here we come, Insight Bowl!

27Nov 2010
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Preview: Michigan at Ohio State

I hate Ohio State’s uniforms, so here’s a picture of
Terrelle Pryor from high school.

Earlier in the year, I had designs on going to Columbus for this game.  I never really had the thought that this game would have an impact on the Big Ten Championship from Michigan’s side, but I thought it might be competitive for the first time in a few years.  I decided not to get tickets even prior to the Wisconsin game, and after watching Michigan get manhandled by the Badgers, I’m glad I didn’t make the purchase.  There will be better years to foray into the heart of Buckeye country.

Rush Offense vs. Ohio State Rush Defense
This will be a battle Michigan must win to have any chance at a victory.  The Wolverines are the #10 rushing offense in the country (257 yards per game), and the Buckeyes are the #3 rush defense (86 yards per game).  Something has to give, and honestly, it will probably be the Ohio State defense.  The best rushing team Ohio State has faced was Wisconsin, who put up 188 yards at 4.37 yards a pop.  Earlier in the year, I railed against Rich Rodriguez’s heavy use of Denard Robinson in the running game to keep him fresh for late in the season.  Well, if ever there was a time to use Denard 30, 35, 40 times a game, this is it.  This is the game that matters, maybe for Rodriguez’s job, maybe for the perception of the program.  This game right here is why I didn’t want Robinson rushing the ball 29 times in a 20-point victory over UConn, but now it’s pedal to the medal.  Michigan’s running backs have largely been ineffective this season, although Vincent Smith has started to improve in the past couple weeks.  Michigan might also get a boost from the return of Fitzgerald Toussaint, a highly talented running back who has missed most of the season due to various injuries.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
The reason the rushing game will be so important is because the passing game scares me.  Michigan has the #30 pass offense and the #16 pass efficiency, but Ohio State is #5 in pass defense and #7 in pass efficiency D.  Denard Robinson still struggles to read defenses and go through his progressions.  And while Ohio State doesn’t make a ton of sacks (only 18 on the year), they have picked off 17 passes; meanwhile, Denard Robinson has thrown 10 picks, with 9 of them coming in Michigan’s last six games.  His accuracy and confidence have waned throughout the year.  Michigan might be missing a deep threat in Darryl Stonum, who injured his ankle returning a kick against Wisconsin.  That would leave the Wolverines down its two starting outside receivers from the beginning of the year, including Martavious Odoms, who has missed most of the year.  There will be open receivers because Ohio State is going to commit to stopping the run, but whether Robinson can hit those receivers downfield is a bit of a crapshoot.
Advantage: Ohio State

Rush Defense vs. Ohio State Rush Offense
Ummm . . . yeah.  So.  Michigan is bad at stopping the run.  This is well known.  While Wisconsin’s offensive line and running backs are more physical than Ohio State’s, Michigan’s defense effectively refused to stop the run against the Badgers, giving up 6.32 yards a carry.  And when you keep the ball on the ground 56 times in one game, it’s not like those yards came on surprise draws or reverses.  Nope, Wisconsin lined it up and simply dominated the line of scrimmage.  Ohio State would be wise to follow Wisconsin’s blueprint.  Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has thrown 10 interceptions himself; so while Michigan’s pass rush isn’t fearsome and Michigan’s secondary is well below average, why take the chance at putting the ball in the air?
Advantage: Ohio State

Pass Defense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
The Buckeyes are the #17 rushing offense, so they don’t need to pass the ball a ton; they average 230 passing yards a game, which is a middling 55th in the country.  But as much as Michigan fans like to make fun of the way Pryor throws the football, he ranks 14th in the country in passing efficiency.  It might be ugly, but it’s effective.  Ohio State has two solid receivers in Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey, and Pryor has the arm strength and touch to deliver deep balls consistently.  On the other hand, Michigan’s secondary is a work in progress.  Lacking its top two cornerbacks from the pre-season (Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd) due to injury, it’s been mix-and-match since then.  But a strange thing seems to have happened since then – the secondary seems to be improving.  James Rogers has three interceptions in the last two games; true freshman Courtney Avery might already be a better cover corner than the guy he replaced (Floyd); and freshman free safety Ray Vinopal lacks the unfortunate quality of being a linebacker.  None of this is to say that Michigan will be great against the pass, but they should perform better than what we thought several weeks ago.
Advantage: Ohio State

Final Predictions

  • Based on the lack of success against Wisconsin, Michigan runs a good deal of 4-man fronts
  • Denard Robinson throws a pair of interceptions
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint gets a couple carries and then gets injured
  • Kelvin Grady leads the team in receiving
  • Ohio State 45, Michigan 27
22Nov 2010
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Michigan vs. Wisconsin Awards

Maybe Wisconsin is good for something.

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Kelvin Grady.  I never really expected much from Grady, but he’s turned out to be more of a player this year.  His playing time diminished last year, and it seems to have diminished once again this season.  But it seems like every time Michigan quarterbacks throw in Grady’s direction, he makes a good play.  I don’t think he’s a gamebreaker or in line for the #1 jersey; he just seems clutch.  The kid has 16 catches for 200 yards on the season (12.5 yards per catch) and made a very nice catch on a ball thrown behind him this past Saturday. 

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . eh, I dunno.  I thought the guys played pretty well on Saturday.  Denard Robinson failed to make some key plays on Saturday, but I’m not about to call for him to be benched at this point.  He’s pretty good and stuff.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon.  What ever happened to Thomas Gordon?  He hasn’t played defense since the Illinois game, and he hasn’t been on the injury report, either.  When I see 5’10” and . . . ahem . . . 197 lb. true freshman free safety Ray Vinopal creeping up to the line to run blitz, it makes me wonder why Prison Abs Gordon is sitting on the sideline.  Gordon isn’t huge, but he’s had a couple years in the strength and conditioning program and he didn’t earn the aforementioned nickname for nothing.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . run-blitzing Ray Vinopal.  Greg Robinson, leave Vinopal 10-15 yards off the ball.  Yeah, he takes good angles and hasn’t really let anyone behind him yet this year.  I’m not sure what those qualities have to do with him stopping 5’11”, 236 lb. Montee Ball running up the middle every play and/or taking on a tight end/fullback/offensive lineman.  That’s just poor defensive scheming.  It’s not like you don’t have other options (Cam Gordon, Thomas Gordon, and Jordan Kovacs) to send on a run blitz, guys who are more adept and more physically ready to make those plays.  But, you know, whatever.  I can’t say I was surprised to see a harebrained defensive scheme fail miserably in Week 11.

MVP of the Wisconsin game . . . Denard Robinson.  It’s odd that Denard passed for 239 yards, rushed for 121 yards, and accounted for all 4 touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing) . . . and I still wasn’t that impressed.  I’m sure there are a lot of plays that Robinson wishes he could do over, and it’s a testament to the offense’s design that so many plays were left on the field.  Denard was clearly Michigan’s best player in the game, but losing by 20 points makes it tough to call anyone an “MVP.”

21Nov 2010
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Wisconsin 48, Michigan 28

Denard Robinson tackles defensive end JJ Watt after an interception.

Bullets:

I’m not upset.  This is a game that I expected Michigan to lose.  Almost everyone did.  That’s not to say that I wasn’t frustrated by some of the things that the coaches and players did – and the offensive production in the first half was somewhat embarrassing – but ultimately, this outcome is what most educated observers foresaw.

Denard’s overthrow early was a killer.  No one play completely destroyed Michigan on Saturday.  That’s impossible when you lose by 20 points.  But I can’t help but think “What if?” about that long pass from Robinson to Darryl Stonum in the first quarter.  Due to Denard Robinson’s running ability, he’s going to see a lot of Cover 0 with no deep safety.  He must take advantage of those opportunities.  Stonum is a blazer and probably would not have been caught from behind if Robinson had put the pass within reach.  If I remember correctly, that would have tied the game at 7-7.  Instead, Michigan went into halftime down 24-0.

Vincent Smith’s concussion looked ugly.  We’ve all seen our fair share of concussions on television (and/or in person).  The scariest are when players get knocked out cold, but it gives me a queasy feeling to see players stumbling around in a daze like Smith did when he tried to get up.  As commentator Chris Spielman said, kudos to Smith for having the toughness to try to get up after taking a knee to the head from 292-pound defensive end J.J. Watt.  Smith’s reaction was reminiscent of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley earlier this season, who was inexplicably allowed to re-enter the game almost immediately; luckily, Michigan’s training staff seems to care more about its players than the Eagles’.  Hopefully Smith heals quickly, but . . .

Injuries are mounting and chances against OSU are slimming.  Starting running back Vincent Smith will probably miss the Ohio State game due to his concussion.  Starting defensive end Craig Roh apparently had concussion-like symptoms, too.  Starting wide receiver Darryl Stonum was carted off the field with his left ankle heavily wrapped in ice.  Starting nose tackle Mike Martin missed much of the second half with his ongoing ankle problems.  Michigan’s top two cornerbacks (Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd) are already out for the season due to ankle injuries.  This seems to be shaping up to be a more beaten-up unit against the Buckeyes than the 2007 team that featured a noodle-armed Chad Henne and a gimpy Mike Hart in the backfield.

The deployment of free safety Ray Vinopal was dumb.  First of all, it’s important to point out that Ray Vinopal has been an upgrade over Cameron Gordon at free safety.  There’s no question about that.  But why in the hell was Greg Robinson using Vinopal as a blitzing box safety?  This type of decision makes me want Robinson replaced at the end of the season.  Against the biggest, most physical, run-oriented team Michigan will face all season, it makes absolutely zero sense to put a 5’10”, 197 lb. (yeah, right) true freshman up at the line of scrimmage to take on a fullback, tight end, or pulling guard.  That’s ridamndiculous.  If you’re going to blitz from that position, put in Thomas Gordon.  Or send Jordan Kovacs from the edge.  There’s no excuse for that kind of matchup at the line of scrimmage, and that’s not Vinopal’s fault.  The Greg Robinson experiment needs to end.

Roy Roundtree is good.  Despite one inexplicable dropped pass on which he was wide open, Roundtree had another good day with 7 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.  I’m looking forward to seeing him wear that #1 jersey.

Congratulations to Denard Robinson.  Robinson passed the NCAA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, previously set by Air Force QB Beau Morgan in 1996.  He has now passed for 2,229 yards and rushed for 1,538 . . . and he still has two games to go.