Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

Tag: Troy Woolfolk

27Nov 2011
Uncategorized 23 comments

Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

Denard Robinson made people look silly on this 41-yard touchdown run.
(image via CBS)

This was Denard’s best game.  Ever.  I take back all the negative things I ever said about Denard Robinson.  He’s spectacular.  I want to have his children.  In all seriousness, though, the guy was 14-for-17 for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns with zero interceptions; he also carried the ball 26 times for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The only flaw in his game was the fumble (put the ball in your outside hand!), but he made throws in this game that he hasn’t made consistently in his entire career – his 28-yard pass to Drew Dileo was thrown perfectly.  That was a great way to cap the regular season.

The replay official was Woody Hayes, Jr.  There was no way in hell that Fitzgerald Toussaint’s touchdown run late in the fourth quarter should have been reversed.  It was called a touchdown on the field and, at worst, there was no good angle to reverse the call.  Officials are supposed to have “indisputable evidence” to overturn calls, and if it takes 10 minutes to review the play, then it’s obviously disputable.  That’s not the fault of the officials on the field – it’s the anonymous guy in the booth.  That guy needs to be reprimanded by the league.  Anyway, that play would have put Michigan up by 9 points (presumably 10 after the extra point) with about two minutes remaining, and Ohio State only had one timeout left.  It would have taken a miracle for OSU to score 10+ points in under two minutes; all it would have taken is a little bit of luck for them to overcome the six-point deficit that resulted.  Luckily, Courtney Avery saved the day.

What happened to Michigan’s defense?  I absolutely did not expect Ohio State to have that much success offensively.  I figured Braxton Miller would get a good chunk of yards by scrambling or on designed runs, and he did (16 carries, 100 yards, 1 touchdown).  Michigan shut down running back Dan Herron (15 carries, 37 yards, 1 touchdown).  But there were wide open receivers running all over the place, and Miller actually hit some of them nicely.  I can’t even just pick on one guy – Blake Countess, J.T. Floyd, Thomas Gordon, Jordan Kovacs, and Troy Woolfolk all got beat on deep passes.  Miller finished with 14 completions in 25 attempts for 2 touchdowns and just the 1 interception at the end of the game.  I was high on Miller when Rich Rodriguez was recruiting him out of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, OH, and he’s going to be tough to deal with for the next few seasons.

The game experience was awesome.  It was great weather for being the end of November.  The tailgaters and frat houses were partying hard.  (Thanks to the tailgaters who let me join them, by the way.)  I only saw one classless encounter between a Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan, and both of them were drunk and stumbling.  The only downer the entire day was that the Union hockey team was sitting near me and kept complaining that people in front of them were standing.  Usually “down in front!” is reserved for old people, but these 19- to 22-year-old kids were trying to rest their legs for this afternoon’s game against the Wolverines, I guess.

Fitzgerald Toussaint made dudes look silly.  If you are one-on-one with Toussaint in open space, you might as well lay down and take a nap.  He had 20 carries for 120 yards and 1 nullified touchdown, and that was a pretty solid defense he was up against.  Between Robinson and Toussaint, Michigan had 46 carries for 290 yards.  Yowzers.

Ten wins.  I expected the offense to be pretty good, and they’ve put some points on the board.  I expected the defense to be solid but unspectacular, and they’ve been on the verge of spectacular.  Aside from giving up 34 points to a mediocre Ohio State offense, the defense has been awesome this year.  I did not expect Michigan to end up with ten wins on the season, and they still have a chance for an eleventh.  The coaches and the players have done an excellent job overall and have played with a lot of hustle and intensity.  It’s been a great season, and Michigan seems to be on the upswing after a few down years.

Go Blue!

14Nov 2011
Uncategorized 48 comments

Michigan vs. Illinois Awards

Ryan Van Bergen (#53) was a force to be reckoned with all night.
(image via MGoBlue.com)

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Martavious Odoms.  Odoms was struggling to see the field earlier in the year, partly because he was recovering from a broken bone in his forearm.  It was frustrating to see a key player from the past few seasons end his career by barely seeing the field.  Luckily, that trend appears to be ending.  He got what seemed to be the most playing time of the season against the Illini, when he had 2 receptions for 46 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown reception from Devin Gardner to go up 24-7.  Odoms was also wide open in the endzone early in the game, but Denard Robinson overthrew him.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . umm . . . Denard Robinson at quarterback.  Bring on the anger.  Robinson has clearly regressed this season, and I’m not going to blame it entirely on offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Borges hasn’t made the same playcalls that allowed Robinson to put up good numbers last season, but much of that is on Robinson’s shoulders, too.  He was unable to hit wide open receivers early in the year, and his inability to hit the deep ball has been extremely maddening.  I described Robinson last year as “wildly accurate” because of his throws that would be catchable but wouldn’t allow receivers to run after the catch.  There was another fine example on Saturday evening when Robinson hit tight end Kevin Koger down the left sideline, and Koger was so wide open that he had time to stop, catch the ball, get started again . . . and get dragged down at the 2-yard line.  If that’s even a decent throw, it’s an easy touchdown.  Devin Gardner at least deserves a prolonged look if Robinson isn’t getting it done, because Robinson is turnover-prone and his rushing has been disappointing for the last several weeks.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon.  Gordon has been a turnover machine with 1 interception, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles on the season.  He’s also the team’s second-leading tackler, despite coming off the bench for the past two games.  Meanwhile, senior Troy Woolfolk has been inserted at safety despite clearly being unhealthy; Woolfolk has yet to create a turnover in his career.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Troy Woolfolk.  This is obvious, considering the above paragraph.  Woolfolk is hurting the team by playing such significant minutes.  I wish he would have been allowed to get healthier earlier in the season, but he wasn’t.  It’s pretty apparent that he won’t be healthy during the regular season, although hopefully he can get his body right by the bowl game.

Play of the game . . . Jordan Kovacs’ forced fumble and Gordon’s recovery.  Illinois had just stopped Michigan on the goal line and had some emotional momentum.  Running back Jason Ford popped free for 8 yards up the middle when Kovacs put his facemask on the ball, which fell to the ground while Gordon jumped on it.  If it hadn’t been obvious previously, it seemed to me right there that this day just wasn’t going to go well for the Illini.

MVP of the game . . . Ryan Van Bergen.  The defensive tackle/end had 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss (for 28 yards), and 2.5 sacks.  Mike Martin (9 tackles, 1/2 a sack) would be a decent choice, and so would Fitzgerald Toussaint (27 carries, 192 yards, 1 touchdown).  But on a night when Illinois couldn’t do anything consistently on defense, in large part because quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was under pressure, I have to give it to the guy who took him to the ground a few times.

13Nov 2011
Uncategorized 39 comments

Michigan 31, Illinois 14

This was a common sight on Saturday – Michigan’s defensive line swarming the Illinois backfield.
(image via MGoBlue.com)

Thank you Greg Mattison thank you thank you thank you.  For the last few years, people have been making the excuse for Michigan’s defense that “It’s Jimmys and Joes, not X’s and O’s.”  Yeah . . . well . . . not so much.  Michigan has three freshman starters (Blake Countess, Desmond Morgan, Jake Ryan), a couple former walk-on starters (Jordan Kovacs, Will Heininger), and less experience than the 2008 team.  The difference: they’re not being coached by Scott Shafer, Greg Robinson, and Rich Rodriguez.  This still isn’t the most talented defense around, but it held Illinois to 30 total yards in the first half, a 50% completion rate, and 1.1 yards per carry for the game.  They also produced 4 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries, and 6 tackles for loss.

J.T. Floyd was okay for once.  One of the frustrating things about Floyd is that he’s slow to cover underneath routes and come up to make tackles, but he didn’t get beat deep against a receiver that Illinois really wanted to hit deep.  Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins had 8 catches for 103 yards, but the Illini targeted him more than 20 times to get those catches.  That low success rate wasn’t entirely due to Floyd – Michigan’s defensive line put a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks – but when you get thrown at that much, you’ve had a decent day by allowing only 8 receptions.  I was disappointed that Floyd didn’t take his pick to the house, because he was brought down by a pretty weak tackle attempt by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.  But I’m not going to complain too much about a 42-yard interception return.

Those referees were horrible.  How many plays went to the replay booth and were reversed?  Three?  Four?  Whenever the game was stopped for a replay, it was essentially assured that the call on the field would be wrong.  The most egregious error was Illinois running back Jason Ford’s fumble (that wasn’t a fumble), which was picked up Courtney Avery and returned for a touchdown (even though Avery’s knee was down when he grabbed the ball).  The replay booth got the call right, but jeez, the head referee was standing right there  and totally blew both calls.  The one replay that wasn’t reversed, which was the tumbling catch by an Illinois receiver, was ruled incomplete on the field but looked to me as if it should  have been reversed.

Fitzgerald Toussaint had a great day.  Illinois eventually figured out that Michigan didn’t want to take chances with throwing the ball, and Toussaint still ended up with 27 carries for 192 yards (7.1 yards per attempt).  He’s clearly taken over the role as the lead back, and this represented his highest career carry total.  The previous high was 20 when he put up 170 yards against Purdue a couple weeks ago.  Michigan’s offensive line didn’t have its greatest effort, either, so Toussaint created a lot of those yards on his own.

This looks like the offense to come.  It seemed clear to me early in the game that the coaches didn’t trust Denard Robinson to put the ball in the air very much.  The game plan was to run run run the ball.  And that philosophy worked, even though it was largely boring to watch.  The Wolverines only attempted to throw the ball 16 times.  Robinson threw 1 interception and fumbled once when he was sacked (plus another fumble on a quarterback run), and he only played until midway through the third quarter, when he was apparently injured on a pass attempt.  At least against defenses that put the pressure on our jittery quarterbacks, the coaches seem to have decided that they would rather keep the ball in the ground.

Desmond Morgan is a truck.  I thought Morgan had his best game yet this season, not least of all because he destroyed Illinois running back Troy Pollard in the hole while getting blocked.  He might only be a freshman, but he’s a thumper.  I wonder if Morgan might eventually move to MIKE when Kenny Demens graduates, but in the meantime, the kid is doing pretty well for a true freshman at the WILL spot.  I have occasionally been frustrated with him getting out of position, but the kid makes tackles when he’s in the right spot.  Even with the vaunted linebacker class coming to Ann Arbor in 2012, it’s going to be hard to push Morgan off the field.

The defensive line had a hell of a day.  It’s hard not to look back and wonder why Michigan couldn’t have produced this same kind of effort back in 2008, with guys like Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson in the middle of the line.  The defensive linemen combined for 20 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 4 quarterback hurries.  It’s rare that a defensive tackle leads the team in tackles, but that’s exactly what Mike Martin did with 9 tackles.

Troy Woolfolk argh.  It’s hard to complain about the defense much, because they allowed only 14 points and 214 total yards.  But on the play prior to Scheelhaase’s 13-yard touchdown run, it was clear that free safety Troy Woolfolk cramped up or pulled a muscle in his leg.  I said the people I was watching the game with, “Get him out of the game.  He’s going to cost the team a big play.”  Sure enough, on the next play, Scheelhaase busted out and Woolfolk couldn’t beat him to the corner of the endzone, and the couch cushion next to me took a beating.  A healthy Woolfolk makes that play.  Meanwhile, backup safety Thomas Gordon – who should be starting – had one less tackle than Woolfolk, added 1 fumble recovery, and broke up a pass.  Woolfolk hasn’t been healthy all season, and Michigan missed a chance to rest him earlier in the year.  Now he seems to be playing at 85%, and it’s hurting the team.  Gordon is a playmaker who has grabbed 5 turnovers (1 interception, 4 fumble recoveries), while Woolfolk hasn’t created even one.

3Oct 2011
Uncategorized 14 comments

Michigan vs. Minnesota Awards

Didn’t you dummies watch the Notre Dame film?  What else is there to do in Minnesota but watch film?
(image via AnnArbor.com)

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Thomas Rawls.  The freshman running back (10 carries, 73 yards) is yet another runner who looks better than Stephen Hopkins.  The lower Hopkins goes on the depth chart, the better off Michigan will be.  Fitzgerald Toussaint (11 carries, 108 yards, 1 touchdown) looks like the best back, Vincent Smith is a solid change-of-pace and third down back (5 carries, 27 yards; 3 total touchdowns), and Michael Shaw (8 carries, 60 yards) ran the ball well on Saturday, too.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Hopkins.  It was necessary for #33 to play almost the entire way because starting fullback John McColgan missed the game due to injury.  McColgan has developed into a better blocker this year than he had been previously, and I think he has some value when running out of the I-formation.  Hopkins made a nice catch out of the backfield for 28 yards, but I’m hoping McColgan can return when the schedule gets tougher.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Blake Countess.  The freshman cornerback looks to have surpassed sophomore Courtney Avery.  He’s a decent enough tackler and has better coverage skills than Avery or redshirt junior J.T. Floyd.  Countess had 2 pass breakups and 1 forced fumble to go with his 5 tackles.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Troy Woolfolk.  For goodness’ sake, let him have a week off.  For the fifth week in a row, Woolfolk left the game due to injury.  He’s got a tweaked ankle.  I know he wants to play and I commend him for it, but everybody and their mother knew that Michigan didn’t need Woolfolk to beat Minnesota handily.  The coaches had a chance to rest him against Minnesota so he would be available for the two tougher offenses coming up the next two weeks – Northwestern and Michigan State.  Now he’s still injured, Northwestern looms as a snake in the grass that could rise up and bite the Wolverines, and Michigan State follows with its dangerous passing game.  There won’t be another possible opportunity to rest him until possibly Purdue, three weeks from now.

Play of the game . . . The most exciting play of the game was Devin Gardner’s scramble and run.  He bootlegged right into a defender, ran out of an arm tackle, reversed field, juked two defenders, gained about 4 yards up the sideline, and then churned his legs for another 2 or 3 yards after the defense caught up to him.

MVP of the game . . . It’s a tough choice between Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.  I’m going to go with Smith, who didn’t have a monster day numbers-wise but had a hand in three offensive touchdowns.  His day included 5 carries for 27 yards and 1 touchdown; 1 pass reception for 28 yards and a touchdown; and 1 halfback pass for 17 yards and a touchdown to Drew Dileo.  On top of that, he made a heads up recovery of a Devin Gardner fumble late in the game.

11Sep 2011
Uncategorized 22 comments

Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

With about 30 seconds remaining in last night’s game and Notre Dame up 31-28, I said to my fellow watchers, “I predicted Notre Dame would win by a score of 31-27.  I don’t want  that to be the score, but that was my pick.”

I’m glad I was wrong.

That was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen as a Michigan fan.  It reminded me of the 2004 “Henne to Edwards Game”, a victory over MSU in which quarterback Chad Henne chucked the ball up repeatedly to wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who decided to just flat-out win the game for his team.  With Michigan down 17-7 at halftime, I thought to myself, “Well, hopefully Brady Hoke returns to the ways of Lloyd Carr and they become a ‘second half team.'”  Uh . . . yep.  The Wolverines scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, including 14 in the final 1:12 to steal a victory from the Irish.


Denard Robinson sucks is awesome.  I have to admit there was a time that I thought this was going to be Robinson’s worst game as a starter.  Early on he was just plain inaccurate.  Then he became inaccurate and  made poor decisions.  Then he made poor decisions . . . accurately.  Robinson finished the game 11-for-24 for 338 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.  He also carried the ball 16 times for 108 yards and 1 touchdown.  His total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange.  Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that’s because it’s the same as Michigan’s kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.  In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.

Notre Dame is awesome sucks.  I do think Notre Dame is an improved team this season, but they have nothing to show for it.  They won their final four games in 2010 and had two opportunities for victories to open 2011, but they blew both chances.  They remind me of Michigan from the past couple years – able to move the ball, but turnover prone; the Irish have 9 turnovers in two games.  Quarterback Tommy Rees looked excellent at times, but he also threw an ill advised pick to cornerback J.T. Floyd, failed to see Jordan Kovacs dropping back for another interception, and let the ball slip from his hand in the red zone late in the game, a fumble that defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen recovered.  Overall, Rees was 27-for-39 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Receiver Michael Floyd caught 13 of those passes for 159 yards, but failed to turn any of those receptions into scores.

Thank goodness for Junior Hemingway.  There were lots of “heroes” in the game – Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree, Jordan Kovacs, Matt Wile, etc.  But none were more important than Hemingway, whose amazing body control saved Robinson’s ass time after time.  Robinson completed only 46% of his passes on the day, but two of his eleven completions were amazing catches by Hemingway for big plays.  His first of the day was a 43-yard TD reception on which he leapt high in the air, came down with the ball, and blasted his way through a Notre Dame defensive back to just barely reach the pylon.  His second was on a horrible decision to throw the ball into double coverage, when he stopped and jumped high in the air once again.  His third was on a crossing route when he kept running despite presumably seeing Robinson in the grasp of a defender; Robinson made his best throw of the night, which Hemingway caught and turned into a 77-yard gain before being tackled inside the 10-yard line.  He ended the night with 3 receptions, 165 yards, and 1 touchdown.  Nobody else on Michigan’s team can do what Hemingway does.

The offense is still explosive.  I hate hate hate it when people like Mark May question Al Borges’ ability to use Denard Robinson effectively.  Michigan’s offense is just fine when Robinson makes accurate throws.  When Robinson is inaccurate, the offense suffers.  But insert any quarterback’s name in that previous sentence and the comment holds true.  Robinson made a few bad decisions in the first half (throwing an ill advised screen pass to Vincent Smith that was picked, throwing into double coverage, tossing jump balls to the 5’8″ Jeremy Gallon, etc.), but there were wide open receivers that Robinson repeatedly missed.  He doesn’t throw an accurate deep ball, and that was apparent last year under “genius” Rich Rodriguez, too.  Robinson got a lot of yardage from bubble screens and short throws last year, but with teams stacking the line of scrimmage and daring Michigan to “pass to win,” those hitches and bubble screens just aren’t going to be there.  The bubble screen worked well for Notre Dame because Michigan was backed off in fear of Michael Floyd.

What happened to Michigan’s defensive line?  I knew Notre Dame’s offensive line would be pretty solid, but so far the defensive linemen have produced very little through two games.  They had 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 fumble recoveries in last night’s contest, but both fumble recoveries were more a function of being lucky than good.  Starters Craig Roh and Will Heininger didn’t register on the stat sheet, and the only production from the backups came from 3 tackles by Jibreel Black and a fumble recovery by William Campbell.  Meanwhile, the team didn’t register a single sack despite 39 pass attempts, and running back Cierre Wood gashed the Wolverines for 134 yards and 5.4 yards a pop.  The linebackers and defensive backs have been outplaying the defensive line in Michigan’s two games.

Pass protection good, run blocking bad.  Except for a Dan Fox blitz that resulted in a quick sack, the offensive line protected Robinson very well.  He did scramble around at times, but usually that was after hanging around in the pocket for a while and not getting rid of the ball.  On the other hand, Michigan’s running backs got zero blocking whatsoever.  They combined for 8 carries, 13 yards, and 1 fumble.  Yikes.  Fitzgerald Toussaint apparently suffered an injury and couldn’t play, and despite having -3 yards, Michael Shaw looked the best of the bunch after he was walled off by defenders and still had the speed to get to the outside.  Hopkins is simply too slow to be a feature back, and he fumbled on the goal line.  Luckily, Robinson was there to pick up the ball and score.  Michigan could also use a new short yardage play, aside from the dive out of a single back formation.

Wanted: A Healthy Troy Woolfolk.  With Eastern Michigan on the horizon, Woolfolk might get a week to rest up a bit.  That would be excellent news for a defensive backfield that lacks size and/or coverage ability.  J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery were both overmatched by Michael Floyd, which is understandable since they’re both smaller and perhaps slower.  I thought Avery had a decent day despite being flagged on a questionable pass interference call, but J.T. Floyd was picked on all night.  He had a couple nice plays, but he’s just not starter quality.  Woolfolk played sporadically in spite of an ankle injury – which he noticeably aggravated a couple times – and a hand injury that forced him to wear a cast.

Wow.  I wish I could have been there.  If I lived in Michigan, there’s no doubt I would have shelled out the money to attend.  That was the best Michigan crowd I think I’ve seen, and at 114,804, it was the largest in football history, too.  I thought ESPN did an excellent job of encapsulating the enormity of the crowd and the game.  Those in attendance will probably remember that game forever.

Go Blue!