Saturday, September 25, 2010

There IS life after ‘Shoelace;’ second season about to begin - Michigan 65,Bowling Green 21

Perhaps the one question no one wishes to ask got answered Saturday afternoon for the Michigan football program. Could U-M survive if something happened to Denard Robinson?
The answer is “yes,” up to a point. The Wolverines finally manhandled a team of lesser talent in the person of Bowling Green, 65-21, although … again … that rascally defense almost made me lose my $1.25 Totino’s Party Pizza I had for lunch. Apparently in Ann Arbor, only McDonald’s know how to “wrap up.”
You know Head Coach Rich Rodriguez wanted to play all three of his quarterbacks against the Falcons – just NOT all in the first half because of necessity. Freshman Devin Gardner looked like the promising player he has been toured to be and at times looked like exactly what he is – a freshman in much more shark infested waters. He possesses a great throwing arm but not the same overall cat-like quickness of Robinson (who STILL led U-M in rushing with 129 yards on only 5 carries before leaving with his knee boo-boo).
It was actually refreshing to sophomore Tate Forcier step up and take the bit, instead of spitting it out. You’ve got to wonder if this was a “showcase” game much in the way as some pro baseball teams run out roster members to show other teams potential trade value. If you want Tate to transfer to your school, you clearly see what you’d be getting.
But Forcier won this game for Michigan, ripping the Falcon defense to shreds. His scoring drive in the final minutes of the first half was crucial at that point in time. Hopefully his performance will smooth any ruffled feathers from how the season, and Robinson’s overwhelming national/campus popularity has totally overshadowed Forcier’s prior performance. No quarterback controversy here.
Still points of concern: penalties, including dumb mistakes (one cost a long touchdown pass for “hitting a defenseless player” and one for having two number 9s on the field at the same time.
The former is ridiculous in a game of collisions; you should be protecting yourself at all times, not unlike boxing. Since no replay was made available, it’s hard to have really known what happened.
The latter flag is just dumb and dumber from the sidelines. Ninety or so numbers SHOULD be enough to cover all personnel you WANT to play. Having two players with the same number who ACTUALLY see lots of action is a penalty waiting to be called and for the first time in my memory, it got flagged.
Hey, back in the day, if you have a duplicate number, the only change YOU got to play was if someone had gotten into triple figures. Hey, this isn’t another version of “Rudy;” it’s major college football and there are only so many minutes in a game and only so many players who can actually play.
I still remained highly concerned about the kicking game, despite the fact Michigan didn’t have to punt against Bowling Green. Most U-M kickoffs were woefully short (not close to the end zone and usually falling short of the 10-yard-line, meaning better than deserved field position). That cannot happen against the likes of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State or even Moo U.
And without a proven field goal unit to garner crucial points, it must be a major concern moving forward for the Michigan coaching staff and all Wolverine nation. It was kinda unnerving to see Bryan Wright boom kickoffs and place kick for BG knowing he was in a Michigan uniform last season. It’s NOT like U-M couldn’t have used him in 2010…
And now … the stage is set for Big Ten Redux for Michigan. U-M enters conference play undefeated, ranked, with an exciting quarterback against Indiana (on the road this time) – seeking desperately NOT to repeat the same outcome as 12 months earlier.
Last year, Michigan had to rally at home to beat the upstart Hoosiers and then fell apart with an overtime loss at Michigan State. With a critical injury to U-M center David Molk crippling a thin offensive line, it all fell apart for the Maize and Blue.
BUT … this appears NOT to be last season’s squad. The running corps appears to be deeper and better, even possessing a big bodied back for short yardage situations in freshman Stephen Hopkins from my neck of the woods (from perennial top-flight program Flower Mound Marcus High School in the next county over), as well as Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith. The line looks stronger and healthier. And Robinson wasn’t ready last year to be the starter; this year, he is the star.
Michigan, with its porous defense, will still have to win high-scoring games – not always the best prescription for victory. But the 2010 version appears to possess the ability to strike quicker than last season’s team, especially running the ball (which WAS non-existent in 2009). Some Big 10 opponents don’t appear to be as formidable (Penn State, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana) as last season and color me unimpressed when you smack around Northern Colorado, Austin Peay (which happens when some Texans have to flush) or even Ball State.
Like it or not, Michigan won a tough road game in a very hostile environment and that will bode well for the Big 10 schedule.
Who knows WHAT will happen coming into the final two weeks against Wisconsin or Ohio State? Even if U-M isn’t ready to win the conference, it will have a team post-season bowl committees will fight to have appear in their contests because of its quarterback and exciting offense.
But, first, Big Blue has to earn its way there. THAT, my friends, starts next week in Bloomington – one game at a time.

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