Despite “Electric” Win, Michigan Wolverines Still Have a Lot to Work On


Saturday’s Michigan-Notre Dame game had every element of a classic.  There was the historical aspect of the first night game.  The home team fell behind huge.  Not so be denied, they followed the arms and legs of their quarterback to an epic comeback.  The villainous visitors came back for one last scare.  But it wasn’t enough as the triumphant hero makes one final stand.  Yep, it was a classic movie, let alone a classic football game.

But now the dust has settled, the smoke has cleared, and the credits have rolled, Michigan has a ton of work to do on both sides of the ball.  This probably shouldn’t be a surprise to most.  Coming off three of the most historically bad, if not worst, Michigan defenses of all time, it’s not going to be a “snap of the fingers” fix.

The Irish do deserve credit.  Tommy Rees and Micheal Floyd were a force.  With the chemistry they had defenses around the country might have struggled against those two.  But Michigan didn’t struggle, they epically failed.  Rees was 27-39 for 315 yards and two touchdowns,  Floyd caught 13 balls for 159 yards.  They were nearly unstoppable.  Rees’ turnovers were actually the only thing that did stop ND.

Michigan fans could be less concerned about those numbers if the defense wasn’t just as bad against the run.  The Irish ran for 198 yards, averaging 6 per carry.  Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray had “truck driving” holes at times.  There was few things that the defense was good at.

One was, as Kirk Herbstreit pointed out during the broadcast, the “bend and don’t break” performance.  Notre Dame could have had Michigan down by 24 several times, but when their backs were to the absolute wall, the defense made the play.  Michigan got their first touchdown two plays after the Kovcas interception, and J.T. Floyd took Notre Dame points of the board with his interception in the red zone.  Considering the Irish had the ball over 37 minutes, giving up four touchdowns might be seen as successful.

The good news is that Brady Hoke is a smart man.  At both the half time and post game interviews, he openly admitted the team wasn’t good defensively.  He didn’t try to hid it behind excuses.  He didn’t say the offense needed to be better (which it did).  At one point, he used the word “atrocious.”  Accountability doesn’t guarentee a better performance next time, but it does ensure that at least the coach recognizes it, which you could never be sure with Rich Rod.

Speaking of the offense, it left a lot to be desired too.  For three quarters, it couldn’t do a thing.  For three quarters, it didn’t have a drive over 4 plays.  For three quarters, it had seven points and a handful of yards.  Luckily, they play four quarters in football.

Honestly, what can be said about Denard Robinson that hasn’t already been said.  Brent Musburger said it best, “Denard Robinson isn’t one of the most exciting players in college football; he is THE most exciting player in college football.”  Add another 400 plus yard game to his credit.

Yet, that’s two sided coin.  Fans love a quarterback that can make plays both with his arm and his feet, but he needs help.  There were at least four dropped balls in that game.  Of the 114 rushing yards for Big Blue, 108 came from their quarterback.  They must start balancing those numbers.

Why?  If Denard is so good, why bother to balance the attack?  Well, Michigan was 4-0 and 5-0 in to start their last two seasons.  The rest of the year, they were 1-7 and 2-6 respectively.  Two reasons: 1) they got into the Big Ten schedule where good teams would run over, around, and through the defense; and 2) Denard Robinson just couldn’t put up 500 yards every game.

Nor should he have too.  This is Michigan.  Mike Hart, Chris Perry, Tim Biakabutuka, and so many other backs have been through this program.  Vincent Smith, Stephan Hopkins, and/or Michael Shaw need to channel their inner Michigan running back from the past and take some of the burden off of number 16.

The bottom line is simple though.  No matter the good, bad, or ugly, Michigan stands at 2-0 heading into game three against Eastern Michigan.  I do believe in Brady Hoke and what he wants to do.  He should be trusted simply because he doesn’t want to run a 3-3-5 in a power running conference that has Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Michigan State and their wide load running backs in it.  But, I do want to see a little more before I go all “Michigan’s Back” on you.  But, it SHOULD take more than two games to get back anyway.