Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Passing attack weapons

Taking on an expanded role each week, it is now clear that 6'3" Adrian Arrington (Jr./So.) is the #2 receiver in the passing attack. Coach Carr continues to sing his praises and after the Wisconsin game the Coach doled out what coming from him is a high compliment when he referred to Arrington as being "reliable." If Coach Carr thinks a player is "reliable" that means he trusts getting the ball in that player's hands. Arrington had his best game as a Wolverine against Wisconsin as he garnered 4 passes for 79 yards including a 33-yard reception down the middle-of-the-field in the first quarter.

With the emergence of Arrington as the clear #2 receiver, I believe that Steve Breaston's opportunities at Wide Receiver will continue to diminish as I have been chronicling in posts since the season began. Against Wisconsin, Breaston tallied 2 receptions for 5 yards and rushed the ball 3 times for 9 yards. Fortunately, he had a top-notch day on special teams as he returned 9 punts for 116 yards. With his outstanding punt return performance fans seemed to ignore the fact that Breaston had not contributed much on the plays from scrimmage. Although I believe that Breaston will continue to see screens thrown his way, I do not believe that he is going to see many, if any, deep balls, slant routes and/or downfield throws going his way.

At Monday's press conference Coach Carr joked (at least I think he was joking) that he was disappointed in offensive lineman Rueben Riley, Jr. for not doing more with the ball when he caught a deflected ball in the Wisconsin game. Riley caught the ball and promptly went down losing 9 yards on the play and Coach Carr joked that if that was all Riley was going to do with the ball then he was removing that play from the playbook. (He will probably put it in the same place where he put the pages for the plays designed for Breaston. Just kidding). At least Riley helped QB Chad Henne's completion percentage by catching the ball. Just do not expect any plays designed for Riley or Jake Long anytime soon. Go Blue!

I one game at a time

It is one of the most tried and true cliches in all of sports: one game at a time. What this philosphy lacks in originality, however, is more than made up for by the fact that this mind-set has the benefit of keeping a team focused on the task on hand. That is why coaches invoke it so much even though the phrase makes sportswriters and fans alike roll their eyes. I have always liked the "one game at a time" philosphy and there has never been a better season to which to apply that philosphy. There is a segment of the Wolverine fanbase that has already begun chattering about a National Championship run. There is another slightly more cautious segment of the Wolverine fanbase that is not jumping on the National Championship bandwagon yet but are waiting in line with (proverbial) tickets in hand. Then there is the segment of the fanbase that has not looked as far down the road as the National Championship but rather are focusing on the Wolverines' "Revenge Tour '06" against Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota in consecutive weeks. I do not begrudge how other Maize and Blue faithful choose to celebrate college football. Far be it from me to be the stick in the mud who says that everyone must adopt the "one game at a time" mantra. Everyone is free to revel in the Wolverines' success in the way that suits them best. It is that revelry that makes college football so enjoyable and I am not about to rain on someone else's (championship) parade. Nevertheless, I am not hopping on any bandwagons or going on any Revenge Tours this season. It is one game at a time for me. In 1997, the National Championship season, Coach Carr used Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" as the team's theme for the season. He even gave each player an ice pick to symbolize their journey "up the mountain" during a long season. Each game is a step toward the summit of the mountain. Next step in the 2006 season is Minnesota. One step at a time. Go Blue!

Offensive Conversions (Red Zone & third down)

Michigan went 3-4 in the Red Zone against Wisconsin which is the first time all season the offense failed to convert on a scoring opportunity in the Red Zone. Against Wisconsin, Michigan scored a touchdown and kicked two field goals on the three scoring opportunities on which it converted. The drive on which the offense stalled in the Red Zone occurred in the 1st quarter when Michigan had a 4th and 1 on Wisconsin's 19-yard line. The Wolverines turned the ball over on downs when Chad Henne was stuffed at the line on a quarterback sneak. On the season, the Wolverines are 15-16 in the Red Zone with 9 touchdowns, 6 field goals and 1 no score.

While the Wolverines continued to enjoy relative success in the Red Zone, they had considerable trouble converting on third down plays against Wisconsin. Against the Badgers, Michigan was a dismal 2-13 on third down conversions (and 0-1 on 4th down as aforementioned). The problem was that, similar to situations the Wolverines often found themselves in last season, Michigan was in an obvious passing situation on 3rd down because it found itself in third-and-long. As the Wolverines were in a obvious passing situation, the Badgers could "send the house" and were rushing 5-6 guys and not giving QB Chad Henne much time to throw on these third down plays. The key to third down plays is to manage the down-and-distance on the first two downs. Michigan has been very successful at that this season prior to the Big 10 opener. By rushing the ball effectively (4-5 yards per carry) and mixing in the pass, the offense had short yardage third down situations during the three non-conference games. In a short-yardage situation, the defense cannot load up the rush because the offense's playbook is "wide open" and the offense has the option of running or throwing on third & two. However, on third & eight, for example, the defense can rush 5-6 guys knowing that Michigan will have to throw the ball. Against a tough Wisconsin defense, Michigan only averaged 2.8 yards per rush and thus ended up in a lot of third-and-long passing situations that allowed the Badgers to "Tee" off on Henne. Thus, Michigan was only 2-13 on third down conversions. Coach Carr said at his Monday press conference that the Wolverines will work to correct that situation and I think they will but I do believe a lot of credit goes to the Badgers' defense for slowing down Michigan's running game and forcing the Wolverines into a lot of third-and-long passing situations. This game once again illustatrates why it is so vital for the Wolverines to establish their running game each time they take the field. Go Blue!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Injury Update & Redshirt Possibilities

LB Chris Graham's pulled muscle in his right leg that he suffered in the season opener vs. Vanderbilt continues to nag him. He missed the CMU game, returned to action vs. Notre Dame but missed playing in the Wisconsin game this past Saturday. Brandon Logan saw increased playing time in Graham's absence. Safety Willis Barringer returned to action against Wisconsin and made 5 tackles. Barringer broke his hand against CMU and had surgery the following Monday to repair it and had to miss the Notre Dame game.

To qualify for a redshirt once a player has seen game action (even one play), NCAA rules dictate that a player must have a medical reason and must not have been in more than three games (and none after the sixth game of the season). Coach Carr stated that true freshman running back Carlos Brown is being considered as a candidate for applying for medical redshirt status. Brown battled an illness for a week or two and has played only sparingly this season appearing in two games and carrying the ball 4 times for 8 yards. Coach Carr also stated that true freshman offensive lineman Steve Schilling who is unable to even practice as he is suffering from mononucleosis is also being considered for medical redshirt status. Coach Carr stated he will ask each player for his preference before making a decision. Go Blue!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thirty-Five Year Reunion of the 1971 Team

During the First Quarter of the Wisconsin game, the members of the 1971 Michigan team came out in the North endzone to be recognized for their accomplishments. The '71 team was celebrating its 35-year reunion of Bo's team that went 11-0 during the regular season and was 14 seconds away from having a perfect season. That was a team that had a fantastic defense (only three of 12 opponents scored in double digits all season and the most points the Wolverines defense yielded in a game was only 17) and it was the only squad in Bo's 21-year career at Michigan that went to the Rose Bowl game undefeated. Hopefully, this year's team can mirror the success of the 1971 team with the slight modification that this year's Wolverines do not suffer the heart-breaking loss in the waning seconds of the bowl game to ruin the perfect season. Go Blue!

Defense stuffs run, leads team to victory

Michigan's Defense, the #1 rushing defense in the NCAA entering the game, shut down the vaunted Wisconsin running game as the Wolverines' "D" held the Badgers to twelve (12) yards on 27 rushing attempts which is a 0.4 yard per carry average. The defense limited Wisconsin tailback P.J. Hill (who came into the game ranked #7 in the nation in averaging 138.3 yards per game) to 54 yards on 20 carries.

Most importantly, Coach English's "D" carried the team while the offense worked to get on track. Michigan went into halftime tied at 10 which is the first time this season they went into the half without the lead. The "D" came out and held Wisconsin to six (6) straight three-and-outs in the second half. Eventually, the offense got untracked and scored 17 second-half points to give Michigan a 27-10 lead before Wisconsin scored a meaningless field goal with just under 2 1/2 minutes to go in the game. Michigan's defense held Wisconsin scoreless in the third quarter which means that the defense has not yielded any points to its opponents during the 3rd quarter in any of its four games this season. Also, Michigan's defense extended its season-long streak of not yielding a rushing touchdown.

Although Michigan did not put Wisconsin away until the 4th quarter, fans did not seem worried as this defense inspires great confidence. People believe that Michigan can hold a lead with this defense which was not always the case last year. Although the defense did not record any turnovers for the first time this season they did register 4 quarterback sacks. Overall, it was another outstanding performance by the defense and another Michigan victory. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Def. Coordinator Ron English by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Michigan 27 Wisconsin 13

Michigan won it's Big 10 season opener this afternoon with a solid 27-13 victory over the Badgers of Wisconsin in front of a crowd of 111,058 at The Big House. Following are links to the game recap, box score, player participation charts, postgame notes, photo gallery, and coach/player quotes. As always, much analysis to follow. Go Blue!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Head Over to Stadium and Main: Wisconsin game linkfest

Nick has his weekly Linkfest feature over at Stadium and Main. Plenty to read up on at the virtual Stadium and Main before heading to Stadium and Main to watch the game tomorrow. Go Blue!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Morgan Trent: Stylin' and Profilin' at cornerback

Cornerback Morgan Trent (junior) apparently is well-suited to be a member of Michigan's vaunted "Play Fast" defense. A former wide receiver, Trent converted to cornerback and now battles with Charles Stewart for the starting CB job opposite pre-season All-America CB Leon Hall. Trent is widely regarded as one of the fastest, if not THE fastest, of all the Wolverine players. He has started three (3) consecutive games at CB and is expected to start again opposite Leon Hall this saturday vs. Wisconsin. Angeligue S. Chengelis did a profile of Trent in the 9/21/06 edition of The Detroit News and among the interesting facts revealed in the article was that Trent has 10 different suits and the one he wears after the game depends on the team colors of that day's opponent. It is a great article on Trent. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Morgan Trent (14) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Maize Out!

This Saturday is the first "Maize Out" of the football season. Fans at each "Maize Out" throughout the athletic year will be randomly rewarded for wearing Maize to events with prizes from secret spotters. Those fans that are selected will be entered into a drawing to win other great prizes throughout the season. Go Blue!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wide Receiver shake-out

Now that Michigan is 1/4 of the way through the regular season including the test provided by Notre Dame things are beginning to shake out a little bit in the cluttered wide receiver field. Sophmore Mario Mannigham has clearly established himself as the new #1 (in the tradition of Anthony Carter, et. al.) and will likely inherit that numeral as his jersey number next season. However, 5th-yr. senior Steve Breaston has failed to impress this season despite repeated reports about how hard he worked this past off-season and that he was destined to have his best receiving year of his career. He continues to be plagued by dropped passes and it appears that Coach Carr's patience is wearing thin. Coach Carr is trying to bring along some younger receivers and when they are ready to step up look for Breaston's receiving opportunities to diminish. On a positive note, during the Notre Dame game Breaston became the Big Ten Conference's all-time leader in punt return yardage. I still maintain, as I posted back on July 1, 2006, that Breaston should be limited to special teams duty.

The top candidate that is being groomed to replace Breaston at WR is current #3 Adrian Arrington. Coach Carr has been raving about Arrington's blocking abilities but even Arrington has shown some difficulty holding onto passes including a potential TD against Notre Dame. Coach Carr stated at his Monday press conference that Arrington has to work on catching the slant pass. If Arrington develops more consistency during the top of the Big 10 schedule he should supplant Breaston. However, if he is unable to do so, Coach Carr is bringing along true freshman Greg Mathews and redshirt freshman LaTerryal Savoy both of whom saw playing time against Notre Dame. Both Mathews and Savoy are athletic pass catchers but their blocking skills are not yet up to the level of Arrington's blocking skills. Nevertheless, both Mathews and Savoy will continue to be brought along and see action each game.

With all this young talent some of the old guard is not seeing the field much. Carl Tabb (5th-yr. senior) started the Vanderbilt game as the third receiver but is now so far down the depth chart the only significant playing time he sees is on special teams. That means he is still doing better than junior Doug Dutch. Dutch (who earned his first letter last season) did not even make the trip to South Bend, Ind. It is hard to get into a game in South Bend when you are stuck back in Ann Arbor. It looks as if Dutch may be the odd man out of the talented receiving corps. He can hang out with 5th-yr. senior Alijah Bradley who is now riding the pine as a WR after switching positions because Michigan was so loaded at running back. Go Blue!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Defensive Rankings

With one quarter of the regular season in the books, Coach "E" has his defense playing at a very high level. Consider the following:

  • The Wolverines lead the nation in rushing defense, yielding an average of 20.7 yards per game. Each of Michigan's three opponents failed to score a rushing touchdown. In three games, Michigan's opponents have run the ball 64 times for a total of 62 yards.
  • Michigan is second in the nation in turnover margin this season behind only USC. Michigan has 10 forced turnovers with six fumble recoveries and 4 interceptions for an average of 2.67 per game.
  • LaMarr Woodley is tied for sixth in the nation with four (4) sacks.
  • Alan Branch is tied for fifth in the nation in forced fumbles per game as he has caused two fumbles in three games.

Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Alan Branch (80) and LaMarr Woodley (56) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Hart holds onto the ball for all he's worth

RB Michael Hart went 450 consecutive offensive touches without a fumble. Ironically, when I did a post noting that, he promptly fumbled his first carry of the next game which was against CMU. However, the fumble was recovered and now the streak has been converted to consecutive offensive touches without a lost fumble. His streak now stands at 500 consecutive offensive touches without a lost fumble. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Mike Hart by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News


Injury Update

DE Eugene Germany and LB Chris Graham returned to the field for the Notre Dame game after having missed the CMU game with injuries. TE Tyler Ecker sat out the second half of the CMU game with an undisclosed injury but also returned to action against Notre Dame. During the Notre Dame game, WR Mario Mannigham injured his wrist on his third TD reception when he crashed into the band. Mannigham returned in the second-half in limited action and caught one more pass. He has had an X-ray of his wrist which Coach Carr said "was fine." Freshman offensive guard Justin Boren (ankle) is expected to resume practicing today and possibly re-enter the two-deep depth chart soon. The news is not quite as positive regarding his linemate Steve Schilling who is suffering from mononucleosis. Schilling has lost a considerable amount of weight and his return is unknown. Go Blue!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Coach Carr calls TV timeouts excessive

Coach Carr was highly critical of NBC's coverage of the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game for the excessive number and length of the network's television timeouts. Coach Carr commented both during "Michigan Replay" and again today at his Monday morning press conference that the televsion timeouts interfered with the flow of the game. Coach Carr complained that NBC had four 5-minute commercial timeouts per quarter. He stated that, "That's where television is having too big an impact on the flow of the game." Coach Carr also commented that he would lodge a complaint with Big Ten Commisioner Jim Delany. Carr stated, "I think the commissioner, I'm hoping Jim Delany, will also get involved. I've never heard of commercial breaks being that long. I have never in my life in college football heard of five-minute timeouts, and we had ten of them. No, we had 16 of them."

The TV timeouts slowed the pace of the game considerably as it took 3 hours, 28 minutes to play this game whereas the Vanderbilt game was played in 3:03 and the CMU game was played in 2:57 (not counting the hour weather delay). Thus, all the "time saved" by the new clock rules was now spent in extended commercial breaks and the game lasted the same 3 1/2 hours it took last season. It's just that now during that same 3 1/2 hour span the Wolverine fans were watching less football and more commercials than they were last year. In 2005, the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game had 147 offensive plays and took 3:30 to play. This year's game had only 129 offensive plays but despite the 18 less plays the game time was within 2 minutes of the previous year's time. Hopefully, Commisioner Delany and Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin will support Coach Carr in his fight against the networks' expanded TV timeouts and further encroachment on the game. Go Blue!

Big 10 Offensive & Defensive Players of the Week

The Big 10 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week both came from the Wolverines
this week. WR Mario Mannigham was the Offensive Player of the Week for his 4 rec., 137 yard, 3 touchdown performance against the Irish. On the defensive side of the ball, LB Prescott Burgess took the honors for his 2 int., 1 touchdown return performance against Notre Dame. As an interesting note, Mannigham and Burgess both graduated from Harding High School in Warren, Ohio. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Mario Mannigham (86) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News
*Note 2: Photo of Prescott Burgess (6), Ryan Mundy (21) and Brandon Harrison (27) by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Obi Oluigbo made a huge play on the kickoff cover team

The Wolverines' much maligned kickoff cover specialists had a big game on Saturday led by the key play made by 5th-year senior Obi Oluigbo. On the ensuing kickoff after Michigan had gone ahead 13-7 on the 69-yard TD bomb from Henne-to-Manningham, Oluigbo (pictured above) knocked the ball free from the hands of kick returner David Grimes. An alert Morgan Trent recovered the ball on the Notre Dame 27 yardline. Michigan's offense (helped by a 9-yard pass play to fullback Oluigbo) quickly drove for a TD to put the Wolverines up 20-7 and the Irish never recovered.

The kickoff cover team limited Notre Dame to 158 return yards on 7 returnable kickoffs for a 22.6 yard average and it caused the fumble described above. The longest return it allowed all day was for 27 yards whereas the previous week vs. CMU the unit had yielded two returns of 40+ yards. Additionally, against Notre Dame kicker Ross Ryan had two touchbacks including the opening kickoff of the game which got things started off on the right foot for the kickoff cover team and for Michigan as a whole. That must have been one heck of a week of practice leading up to the Notre Dame game because this entire special teams unit came together and played substantially better than it had the first two weeks of the season. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Obi Oluigbo by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Notre Dame running game stuffed

Michigan came into the Notre Dame game with the #4 ranked run defense in the nation (see post of 9/15/06) and the Wolverines were focused on stopping RB Darius Walker who had gained over 100 yards in each of the last two meetings between the teams. The defense came up big as they held Walker to 25 yards on 10 carries. As a team, Notre Dame was limited to four (4) yards rushing on 17 carries (0.2 avg) for the game. By taking an early lead and stuffing the Notre Dame running game, Michigan forced Notre Dame into a one-dimensional offense where the Irish threw the ball 49 times and were intercepted 3 times. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Jamar Adams (#22) tackling Darius Walker by Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

Red Zone Offense still perfect after 3 games

Michigan's Red Zone Offense was a perfect 4-4 (2 touchdowns, 2 field goals) against Notre Dame. The offense maintained its perfect 100% mark in the Red Zone on the season (12-12 with 8 touchdowns and 4 field goals). Converting in the red zone was not a key to victory in the win over Notre Dame so I post this more as an interesting aside than as an explanation for the win. Nevertheless, it is good to see that the Wolverines were able to continue to convert their opportunities into points. Go Blue!


Passing attack

Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord unveiled Michigan's downfield passing attack against Notre Dame with great success. After limiting the passing game primarily to short passes during the first two games, DeBord let QB Chad Henne throw downfield against the Irish. In game two against CMU, only three of Henne's 11 completions (on 19 attempts) were thrown beyond 10 yards. Against the Irish, Henne was 8-of-12 passes for 165 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 int. in the first-half. Henne's three TD passes (all to Mario Manningham) went for 69 yards, 22 yards, and 20 yards. All three TD passes were perfectly thrown balls.

Michigan went to more of a ball control offense in the second-half and Henne managed the game well as the offense did not commit any second-half turnovers. Henne completed 5-of-10 passes for 55 yards while guiding the offense to two second-half field goals. Most importantly, the offense chewed up the clock while the Wolverines had a big lead as Michigan had the ball for 10:53 of the 3rd quarter which prevented Notre Dame from getting back into the game. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Carr congratulating QB Chad Henne by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Michigan fans euphoric in aftermath of ND victory

Coach Carr had the Wolverines primed for the Notre Dame game and the Michigan players executed magnificently in all phases of the game. In fact, I think the Wolverines performance was so amazing that it stunned the Michigan faithful. You can read all about the fantastic win in both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.

In the Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom did an article about Coach Carr getting the "road monkey" off his back. Mark Snyder did an article about the game and another article about how Mike Hart believed Michigan would beat the Irish. The Freep also has its features U of M Notebook and The Kickoff as well as its always excellent photo gallery.

Over at the Detroit News, Angelique S. Chengelis' lead article about the game is entitled "Irish Creamed." Bob (Wojo) Wojnowski wrote an article about how the Wolverines win made a bold national statement. There is also a U-M: Notebook.

Read it and weep. (Those are tears of joy) Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Carr getting a "Gatorade Shower" taken by Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

Michigan 47 Notre Dame 21

Michigan went down to South Bend, Indiana for their road opener against Notre Dame in front of 80,795 and came away with a stunning 47-21 victory. Following are links to the game recap, box score, player participation charts, postgame notes, and photos. As always, much analysis to follow. Go Blue!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Television Coverage

For those not making the trip to South Bend- unlike Robert of Blah, Blah, Blah and Kenny of Westsider Rider- and who will be watching the game on TV, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. The game is being televised on NBC Sports at 3:30 p.m. EDT. When you set your TiVo make sure that you do not forget that that the pre-game show starts at 3:00 p.m. EDT. The NBC game announcers will be Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (color analyst) and Lewis Johnson (sideline reporter). Although this is a top-notch crew, Michigan fans need to remember that NBC is the Notre Dame Football Network. Therefore, the announcers tend to present the game in the light most favorable to the Fighting Irish. That could get annoying after awhile. Michigan fans may be better served by turning off the sound of their television sets and turning on their radios so they can listen to the broadcast of Frank Beckmann (play-by-play), Jim Brandstatter (color analyst) and Doug Karsch (sideline reporter). As long as you are going to listen to "homerism" it might as well be "homerism" for the team for which you are rooting. Locally, you can catch the radio broadcast on 104.3 (WOMC-FM) or 1050 (WTKA-AM). If you do not live in the metro-Detroit area, you can click here to find a local affiliate that will broadcast static-less in your area. Go Blue!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Read Up at Stadium and Main

To make sure that you are fully informed about the U of M vs. Notre Dame game you can head on over to Stadium and Main and check out Nick's weekly Linkfest feature. This is a great weekly feature that he does that provides links to more information and articles than even the most die-hard fan can consume. Check it out. Go Blue!

Player to watch: WR Adrian Arrington

Michigan has not put all of its offensive arsenal to use yet this season but everything will be on display on Saturday vs. Notre Dame and as the passing game comes alive a player to watch is WR Adrian Arrington. Arrington was injured in the season opener last year and missed the remainder of the 2005 campaign and he was slowed earlier this year by injuries as well but he is ready to break out as the Wolverines are looking for a consistent receiving threat.

At Monday's press conference, this is what Coach Carr had to say in response to a question about searching for roles for his receivers, "I think Adrian Arrington has done some very, very good things in the first two games. He missed some significant playing time in the fall with a bump and a bruise, pulled muscle. So he didn't go into the opener (healthy), as a matter of fact, he missed one day of practice that week. But what I've seen in the games I really like. I think he's done a great job blocking. In the limited opportunities he has got the football, I thought he has done a good job, and he's done some very good things in practice. I think Arrington hopefully is ready to play a bigger role."

In fact, getting Arrington some work was a reason that Henne stayed in the game in the 4th quarter vs. CMU. With 7:43 to go in the game and the Wolverines leading comfortably, Coach Carr kept Henne in the game rather than give back-up QB Jason Forcier some much needed snaps because Coach Carr wanted Henne to make some throws to Arrington on the drive to get Arrington some opportunities to catch the ball prior to Saturday's game. As Steve Breaston has, not suprisingly, failed to flourish as a receiver this season, Michigan is looking for a consistent threat and Coach Carr would like Arrington to be that player. Keep an eye on him on Saturday. Go Blue!


Stuffing the Run

Michigan's run defense is ranked #1 in the Big Ten and #4 in the NCAA as the Wolverines have yielded an average of only 29 rushing yards per game this season. Michigan held Vanderbilt to just 42 yards on 26 attempts (1.6 avg.) in the season opener and then followed that performance by limiting CMU to 16 yards on 21 attempts (0.8 avg.) in game two. The Wolverines run defense will be tested against Notre Dame as Michigan has had difficulty stopping Darius Walker the past two meetings between the teams. In 2004, Walker ran for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns and he ran for 104 yards in last year's contest. This year the defense, under Coach "E", look to shut Walker down. Go Blue!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shifting the pressure

There has been a lot of discussion this week about Michigan's recent abysmal record in road openers (six straight losses) and its recent record vs. Notre Dame (1-3 in last 4 meetings). In response to numerous queries about Michigan's recent record in those categories, Coach Carr responded in part by saying, "You want to go in, in a positive frame of mind, focused on just the things that you need to do as a player or coach to help the team win."

I like Coach Carr's quote. He is trying to keep the Wolverines in the right mind-set. Thinking about the prior history (most of which these players had no part in creating) will only serve to put them in a negative frame of mind, put more pressure on them and make them more likely to press when things get tight as they inevitably will on Saturday. The Wolverines need to take the attitude of carefree abandon and that all expectations are on the Fighting Irish. Heck, it is Notre Dame who is ranked #2 and is carrying the weight of expectations (demands) of the fan base that they go undefeated this season. It is Notre Dame who is favored to win by a touchdown. As for the SI cover boy Brady Quinn he is under the gun to have to a monster game to prove himself Heisman worthy. His candidacy for the trophy could be won or lost on Saturday. Notre Dame is the one that should be feeling the pressure as kickoff nears not Michigan. The focus on Michigan's past record is misdirected and unproductive and only serves to put the pressure back on Michigan when they are the underdog in this game. The beauty of being the underdog is that the pressure is supposed to be on the favored team. Therefore, for the rest of the Michigan-Notre Dame week it is my mission to put the pressure back where it belongs: on Notre Dame. Go Blue!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Safety Jamar Adams leads team in pass break-ups

Junior safety Jamar Adams leads the Wolverines with three pass break-ups in two games. Adams figures to see a lot of action from the pass-happy Irish offense this Saturday and he should be up to the challenge. Adams is also tied for second on the team with eight tackles which includes his first career sack he registered in the opener vs. Vanderbilt (pictured above). Against Vanderbilt, Adams logged six tackles, the sack and one pass break-up. He followed that up with a 2 solo tackle and 2 pass break-up performance the next game vs. CMU. Adams is becoming a fixture in the Wolverines' secondary as he has started eight consecutive games and ten games overall. "Double Deuce"(he wears jersey #22) will be a key performer to watch this Saturday. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Jamar Adams by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Penalties, Sacks and Turnovers

Coach Carr said on Michigan Replay after the CMU game (as he has many times over the years) that a team's biggest improvement in performance takes place from game 1 to game 2. Thus, Coach Carr was looking to correct in game two some of the sloppy play he saw exhibited in the season opener vs. Vanderbilt. However, on the penalty front things got worse in game two. Against CMU, the Wolverines were flagged 9 times for 73 penalty yards. Redshirt sophmore TE Carson Butler almost incurred as many penalty flags (2) as he caught receptions (3). The Wolverines will have to be more disciplined in their execution in week three against Notre Dame.

As for sacks, despite having the MAC player of the year in Dan Bauzin, the Chippewas only managed to sack Michigan QB Chad Henne once for a 4-yard loss. This despite the fact that the Chippewas were sometimes deploying Bauzin in a "grand twist" where he would start out at one end of the line and then run around the line and rush the QB from the other end of the line.

As for turnovers, there were none. Henne threw no interceptions for the second straight game and although the Wolverines fumbled twice they mangaged to recover the ball both times. The first fumble was by Mike Hart. That's right. Mike Hart. I must have jinxed him with my post about his 450 consecutive touches without a fumble coming into this game. Incidentally, his streak is now at 471 consecutive touches without a lost fumble. The second fumble of the CMU game (which Michigan also recovered) was by Jerome Jackson on his first carry of the season. Despite the faux paus, he was called on to make two additional carries later in the game.

Overall, Michigan performed well in two of the three categories as it only allowed one sack and committed zero turnovers but committed way too many (9) penalties again. Go Blue!

Banner Performance

Every home game one of the most exciting moments prior to kickoff is when the Michigan team comes roaring out of the tunnel and the players leap up and touch the M GO BLUE banner on their way to the west sideline. Against CMU, however, the geniuses from the M Club who were holding the banner on the North side of the field had the banner all twisted up which kind of ruined the effect. (Click here to see photo gallery; go to 3rd photo to see the twisted banner). I think they need to hold a remedial Banner Raising class so those members can learn how to raise and hold the banner upright without looking like a bunch of doofuses.

While I am on the subject of pre-game pomp and circumstance, I want to address a question I was asked by a reader about the coin toss ceremony. Joining the two team captains (LaMarr Woodley and Jake Long) at mid-field for the coin toss was 5th-year senior Obi Oluigbo. For the coin toss in week one the two team captains had been joined by 5th-year senior Darnell Hood. The reason Oluigbo and Hood were out there for the respective coin tosses was because they each had been selected to serve as the special teams captain during the respective games. Go Blue!


Monday, September 11, 2006

Fantastic 4 continue to make plays

Michigan's front 4, led by DE LaMarr Woodley, continued their impressive play against CMU. Woodley racked up 2 sacks (for minus 40 yards), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 4 solo tackles. Woodley is tied for the lead in the nation with 4 sacks. On the other end of the line, DE Rondell Biggs maintained his coming-out party as he picked up another sack against CMU bringing his season total to three which puts him in a tie for sixth best total in the nation. On the inside of the line, DT Alan Branch forced a fumble that Michigan recovered for the second consecutive game. In the trenches with Branch on the inside is super sophmore Terrance Taylor who started at Nose Tackle. Taylor did not show up in the stat line against CMU but he played big in the middle and continues to play extremely well. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of LaMarr Woodley(56) & Tim Jamison (90) by David Guralnick/The Detroit News
*Note 2: Photo of Alan Branch (80) by John Greilick/The Detroit News

Wisconsin game time & TV info announced

Michigan announced today that the September 23, 2006 Big Ten home opener vs. Wisconsin will kickoff at Noon EDT. The game will be televised on ESPN for your viewing and TiVo ing pleasure. Go Blue!

Short kickoffs continue

Ross Ryan (5th-yr. Senior) hit 8 kickoffs for 483 yards (60.4 yard/avg.) with 1 touchback vs. CMU. That gives Ryan two touchbacks out of 14 kickoffs (14%) this season whereas he knocked 40 of 69 (58%) for touchbacks in 2005 while using a 2" kicking tee. The rule change (Rule 2-15-4-c, Kicking Tee) put in place prior to this season mandates that the kicking tee may not elevate the ball's lowest point more than one-inch above the ground. The rationale for the rule change was that the change from a two-inch tee to a one-inch tee could lessen the number of touchbacks (and thus speed up the game). That has, in fact, certainly happened.

The rule change has caused a dramatic decrease in the number of touchbacks that Ryan has been able to kick and, thus, it has commensurately increased the pressure on the kickoff coverage team to make plays. Unfortunately, the kickoff coverage unit has not been up to the task thus far. In game two, CMU's Eric Fraser averaged 31 yards on five kickoff returns and he had two returns of 40+ yards. That's too many big plays and giving up too much field position by this special teams unit. They need to buckle down this week and work on staying in their lanes as they come down the field to make the tackle. As an aside, Ryan helped his own cause during the CMU game when he made a crushing tackle on the kick returner late in the game. It was the best tackle made by anyone on the unit all day. The rest of the guys could learn a thing or two from him. Go Blue!

Injury Update

Michigan achieved all of its major goals for the first two games of the season: (1) win both games; (2) establish the running game; (3) escape without injuries especially to Henne and Hart. Michigan has emerged relatively unscathed injury-wise from its first two games of the 2006 season. Three key players- RB Carlos Brown, LB Chris Graham, and DE Eugene Germany- were not on the dress list for the CMU game. Nevertheless, Brown saw action late in the game as he had 3 carries for 5 yards. Brown had reportedly been battling a case of strep throat all week. Graham and Germany are both expected to join Brown back on the field for the Notre Dame game this Saturday. Graham is recovering from a pulled thigh muscle he suffered during the Vanderbilt game. Tight End Tyler Ecker (pictured scoring a touchdown in week one) played the first half of the CMU game but left with an undisclosed injury at halftime. He stood in street clothes the second half. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Tyler Ecker by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Max Pollock now has a highlight for Football Bust

Senior Inside Linebacker Max Pollock had only appeared in limited action in 3 games in his career entering this season and he did not have much to show for it statistically. He is due to his receive his M ring from the U of M Club of Greater Detroit at the season ending football bust on November 27, 2006. Every year at the Bust, a highlight video clip is shown of the player in action prior to his introduction to receive his ring. The problem is Pollock had never done anything exciting on the field. Until yesterday. Pollock intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown! Now he has a highlight for the Football Bust when he receives the M ring he has worked so hard for all these years. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Max Pollock by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

Red Zone Offense

Michigan was a perfect 5-5 in the Red Zone vs. CMU keeping intact its 100% mark for the season. Over the course of the first two games, Michigan is a combined 8-8 on Red Zone scoring opportunities. Against Vanderbilt, Michigan scored 2 touchdowns and a field goal on its Red Zone opportunities. Against CMU, Michigan scored 4 touchdowns and a field goal on its Red Zone opportunities. This is an indication that the offense is capitalizing on its chances. Go Blue!


This to shall pass

Michigan fans are fretting about the state of the passing game as the Wolverines only gained 135 yards through the air vs. Vanderbilt and followed that with 134 passing yards vs. CMU this past Saturday. Intent on establishing the run, the Wolverines only attempted 22 passes in game one and 21 passes in game two. As Lloyd Carr commented after the CMU game, "We didn't throw the ball many times, 21 times, we're used to throwing that many in the first half."

Fear not Wolverine faithful, the forward pass will return as planned this week for the Notre Dame game. There has been much debate (and hand wringing) in the Michigan blogoshpere and on talk radio about Michigan's "inability" to throw the deep route and/or over the middle during the course of the first two games of the season. I put the word "inability" in quotes because fans debate whether U of M was unable or just unwilling to throw deep and/or over the middle. I am in the camp that firmly believes that Michigan's decision to refrain from calling those plays is simply a result of an unwillingness to call those plays when it was not absolutely necessary. The aversion of Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord to calling those type of pass plays in the first two games could be spotted a mile away. The game plan was to establish the run and go with safe, short passes to avoid the possiblity of turnovers. Chad Henne executed the offensive game plan to a "T" and he has yet to throw an interception this year while guiding the offense to 27 points vs. Vanderbilt and 34 points vs. CMU. From a field general standpoint, Henne has performed well even though his individual statistics are not awe-inspiring this season.

The naysayers assert that if Michigan had the ability to throw deep and/or over the middle in the first two games they should have done so because the receivers needed the experience in game conditions of making such plays. I think there is some merit in that assertion. However, as you often hear (and see me post), Michigan does not like to "show" everything it has on offense. It seems to me that you have to do a cost/benefit analysis. The "cost" of running those plays in the first two games is that you run a risk of an interception and you are showing Notre Dame what your play looks like. The "benefit" is that you may make a big gain and the receivers gain experience running the play in game conditions prior to Notre Dame. Now in my own simple mind I would probably factor in that Notre Dame Coach Weis knows what a deep route looks like so that Michigan probably would not be "showing" him much if they actually ran one during one of their first two games. That being said, I knew which way Coach Carr and Coach DeBord were coming down in this analysis and thus I did not get worked up when Michigan refrained from passing deep and/or over the middle. It was expected.

Michigan will open the playbook vs. Notre Dame this upcoming Saturday. I also know based on the experience of the past two years that QB Chad Henne can make the required throws. The question is who will be on the receiving end of his passes. The Spring Football talk of Michigan being deep at receiver has quickly faded away as a situation has developed where the Wolverines have many mediocre but no standout receivers. For the Wolverine passing game to be successful, the Wolverines need a receiver who can run crisp routes, get separation and hold onto the ball. No one (not even Mario Mannigham or Steve Breaston) has demonstrated those qualities thus far. I do not believe that Greg Mathews and/or LaTerryal Savoy have gotten enough work to allow them to step up to play a major role at Notre Dame in front of a hostile crowd. I think the passing game is going to rise or fall on the shoulders of Mannigham, Breaston and possibly Adrian Arrington. If they can get open, Henne can get them the ball and the passing game will take off. That is IF they can get open. They will have to find a way to get open for Michigan to be successful against Notre Dame because the games of just running Hart over the left side are over. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Chad Henne by Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

Lightning delays game one hour

With 3 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter the game had to be halted due to a lightning strike in the area (within 6 miles). This marked the first time in the 80 year history of Michigan Stadium that a game was delayed due to inclement weather. The delay lasted for an hour and caused the game (which kicked off at 12:10 p.m.) to last until 4:07 p.m. Not factoring in the weather delay, the game was played in a lightning fast (pardon the pun, I could not help myself) time of 2 hours and 57 minutes thanks to the new clock rules which keeps things moving. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo by John Greilick/The Detroit News

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Michigan runs to victory for 2nd straight week

Putting up strikingly similar offensive yardage numbers to last week, the Wolverines cruised to its second straight victory of the season. Against CMU, the Wolverines put up 252 yards of rushing offense (it had 246 last week vs. Vanderbilt) and 134 yards of passing offense (it had 135 yards last week vs. Vanderbilt). Although the offensive output was almost identical in terms of yardage, the Wolverines were a little more efficient this week in putting points on the board as the offense accounted for 34 points this week as opposed to the 27 it scored last week.

The Detroit Free Press article about the CMU game can be found here while the Freep's photo gallery is here. Also, the article from The Detroit News is here. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Mike Hart by Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

Michigan 41 CMU 17

Michigan won in convincing fashion over the Chippewas in a weather delayed game in front of a crowd of 108,712. The game lasted almost 4 hours due to the weather delay but only went 2 hours and 57 minutes not counting the hour-long interruption near the end of the first quarter. Following are links to the game recap, box score, player participation charts, postgame notes , photos, and player/coach quotes. As always, much analysis to follow. Go Blue!


Last week in the season opener vs. Vanderbilt, 5 true freshmen and 11 redshirt freshmen made their debut on the field as Michigan Wolverines. The five true freshmen who played were: RB Carlos Brown, WR Greg Mathews, RB Brandon Minor, S Stevie Brown, and DE Brandon Graham.

The eleven redshirt freshmen who finally were able to get into a game were: OL David Moorsman, OL Mark Ortmann, OL Justin Schifano, OL Cory Zirbel, TE Carson Butler, WR LaTerryal Savoy, QB Jason Forcier, P Zoltan Mesko, DE Eugene Germany, special teams Andre Criswell, and special teams Johnny Sears.

Of the 16 first-timers, RB Brandon Minor put up the biggest stats as he had 3 carries for 30 yards including a team best 24-yard run during the second quarter. Although Carlos Brown is listed as a running back his one carry (for 4 yards) came on a play where he lined up behind center and took the snap as quarterback. OL Justin Schifano contributed when he finished the game at Right Guard after Alex Mitchell moved to Right Tackle when Rueben Riley, Jr. was pulled after incurring his second holding penalty. Punter Zoltan Mesko had 3 punts (averaging 41.7 yards per kick) before Ross Ryan took over the duties to handle the final punt of the day. All in all the first-timers did well and I look forward to seeing them step up even more as the season progresses. Go Blue!

The Immovable Object vs. The Unstoppable Force

The Immovable Object is (hopefully) the Michigan Offensive Line vs. the Unstoppable Force whom is CMU's Dan Bauzin (pictured at right) who led the nation last year with 26.5 tackles-for-loss including 16 sacks. Bauzin was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year last season. Last week the right side of the Michigan offensive line (Right Guard Alex Mitchell and Right Tackle Rueben Riley, Jr.) experienced a lot of difficulty on passing plays which does not bode well for Chad Henne this Saturday. However, despite those difficulties in pass protection, Henne was only sacked once last week vs. Vanderbilt for a nine-yard loss. Bauzin is looking to exploit the pass protection weaknesses of the Michigan O-Line and disrupt the flow of the Michigan passing attack by flushing Henne from the pocket. The scouting report on Henne is that once he is flushed from the pocket that he will simply tuck the ball in and run with it rather than make a throw on the run. Thus, if Bauzin and CMU can keep Henne from settling in and making throws from the pocket, it could be another long day for the Michigan passing game. However, Michigan may not simply be able to keep the ball on the ground. CMU has a tough run defense and it only yielded 85 rushing yards in its season opener vs. Boston College. Thus, it will be imperative that Michigan get some sort of aerial attack going to keep the lanes open for the rushing game. The pressure will be on the O-Line to step up and keep the All-MAC Bauzin from blowing up the Wolverines' offensive game plan. Go Blue!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The press box opens up to a blogger

The Michigan Stadium Press Box may have to be re-named the press/blogger box now that a member of the blogger ranks has been credentialed by the University's Media Relations Department. Sadly, it is not yours truly who is realizing the dream of being called to "The Show" tomorrow. It is none other than 16-year old blogger Sean of Michigan Sports Center. He is going to do a live blog during the game from the cozy confines of the Michigan Stadium press box. This guy is my hero! I've always wanted to watch a game, ONE GAME, from the press box and he is doing it in an official capacity he earned at only 16-years of age. I thought it was a big deal when he snagged an interview with super punter Zoltan Mesko but Sean was not satisfied with that. He blogged himself into the press box. Impressive. I hope his blog receives a massive amount of hits as a result of his press box postings. Go Blue!

Blogging the Big Ten

Although I try to focus this blog on Michigan, I subscribe to the philosphy of "know your opponent" (as the boys over at MZone like to put it). Therefore, I have been searching for one high-quality football oriented blog from each Big Ten conference school. That way readers can keep up on the latest happenings of Michigan's opponents as well as Michigan itself. In my quest to find interesting Big Ten school blogs I came across Art's Blog and the related Big Ten Rant and Rave which blog the entire conference. I've put up a permanent link to the Big Ten Rant and Rave under the heading of Big Ten Blogs. This is an excellent and informative blog and well worth checking out as Michigan prepares to head into the Big Ten season. Go Blue!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some light reading

Angelique S. Chengelis (a/k/a "The Angel of the Big House) of The Detroit News and Mark Snyder of The Detroit Free Press each did their typical outstanding job this past week of covering the Wolverines. On Sunday, September 3rd, Angelique did an article regarding the new coordinators. She also provided some quick hits in her UM: Notebook of the same date. The following day (Monday, 9-4-06), she graded the Wolverines season opening performances and provided a recap. On Tuesday, her Michigan: Notebook covered a range of topics including the issue of shrinking game clock time. She also did a profile on linebacker Shawn Crable. On Thursday, 9-7-06, Angelique did a preview of the U-M vs. CMU game.

Not to be outdone by "The Angel", Mark Snyder has also been busy documenting the daily occurences of the Wolverines. On Sunday, 9-3-06, Snyder penned a UM Notebook. He followed that on Monday with an article about LaMarr Woodley and an article quoting Coach Carr saying that there was room to improve. On Tuesday, Snyder's article explained zone blocking. On Wednesday, 9-6-06, Snyder did a profile of DE Rondell Biggs.

Between the two papers and what little additional information this blog can provide, come Sautrday you should be fully prepared to wow the people seated around you with your extensive knowledge of the team. Go Blue!

More sacks please!

Last season Michigan's defense tallied 24 sacks over the course of 12 games. In 2006, Michigan racked up six sacks in the season opener. That means the 2006 defense already achieved 1/4 of the 2005 season total in just one game! I hope the defensive front of DE LaMarr Woodley; DT Alan Branch; DT Terrance Taylor; DE Rondell Biggs can keep up the pressure this week against Central Michigan. It appears that CMU will start Dan LeFevour at quarterback after he came in last week and performed well against Boston College when he replaced an injured Brian Brunner who left the game with a concussion. LeFevour passed for 221 yards and led the team in rushing with 14 carries for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns vs. The Eagles. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of LaMarr Woodley by David Guralnick/The Detroit News

Hold onto the ball

Mike Hart is an incredible runner but even more incredible than his running ability is his ability to hold onto the ball. As everyone knows, Coach Carr despises nothing more than turnovers. Therefore, he highly values Hart's uncanny ability to hold onto the ball. Hart enters the Central Michigan game with 450 consecutive offensive touches without a fumble. He touched the ball 32 times in the 2006 season opener vs. Vanderbilt (31 carries, 1 reception). Hart completed the 2005 season without a fumble, touching the ball 166 times (150 carries and 16 receptions) without a miscue. He carried the ball 230 times and added 22 receptions in eight-plus games in 2004 following his only career fumble during the 4th quarter of the Big Ten opener vs. Iowa on 9-25-04. Go Blue!

*Note: Information derived from MGoBlue's Michigan vs. CMU Game Notes (page 7).
*Note 2: Photo of Mike Hart by John Greilick/The Detroit News


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Zone Blocking

Michigan debuted its new offensive blocking scheme (called "Zone Blocking") on Saturday. It is a departure from the traditional "Gap Blocking" scheme used by Michigan for many years. In the NFL, the Denver Broncos are probably the most well known for employing a Zone Blocking scheme. For a good explanation of Zone Blocking, click here. Go Blue!

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Where did the time go?

The change in the height of the kicking tee had an impact on Saturday's game but the most significant rule change involved the time keeping. Saturday's game finished in a lightning fast 3 hours and 3 minutes due to the new rules. Coach Carr estimated that the teams lost approximately 6 minutes of clock time. The two teams ran 125 plays which is about 20 or so plays less than normal. The length of the TV timeouts, however, remained unchanged. The rule change will make it less likely that a team will mount a big comeback from behind because the clock is always ticking. Over the course of the season, Coach Carr estimates that that an entire game's worth of time (60 minutes) will be lost because of the new rule. Of course, Michigan did add a 12th game this season so maybe it is all just a wash. Regardless, I will not be surprised if this rule is revisited after this season as it seems many coaches are dissatisfied with it. Go Blue!

Defense: Play Fast

The defense had an impressive debut under Defensive Coordinator Ron English. Especially impressive was the defensive front four of LaMarr Woodley, Terrance Taylor, Alan Branch and Rondell Biggs. The whole defense (but especially the 4 guys up front) followed Coach English's mantra to "Play Fast." Coach English stresses that his defenders know their assignment, get to it and cover it well. Coach English has a "straight-ahead" philosophy and on Saturday the Wolverines just kept coming. Woodley had a break-out game but Biggs was almost as impressive at the other Defensive End spot. Although Woodley and Biggs put up the big numbers coming off the ends, Branch and Taylor also played extremely well coming up the middle. Vanderbilt QB Chris Nickson was harried all day and took quite a pounding over the course of the game. This defense looks like it is going to be tough to score on this year. Go Blue!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Special Teams

Stevie B. (Steve Breaston) tried to do too much and ended up doing nothing, Zoltan the Inconceivable began his march to the Heisman, Ross Ryan had a modicum of difficulty with the new lower kicking tee and Garrett Rivas hit a career long field goal (48 yards) and had a kick blocked in the same game. There was a whole lot going on in the Michigan special teams units during the Vanderbilt game.

Steve Breaston

Coming into this season, the 5th-year senior is Michigan's all-time leading punt returner and #2 all-time kickoff returner. As I wrote in my post of July 1, 2006, I think he is a threat to score every time he takes the field. However, after watching his performance against Vanderbilt, I get the strong feeling that he may be trying to do too much. His special teams stat line for the game was 3 punt returns for a total of 7 yards and 1 kickoff return for 16 yards. Watching him on Saturday I kept getting the feeling that he wanted to take off before the ball even got to him as if he was anxious to make something happen. As you can see from his stats nothing happened. After witnessing a couple adventurous punt catches I found myself just hoping he would stay in position long enough to field the ball cleanly. He will come around and I hope he does not put too much pressure on himself to score everytime he makes a return.

Zoltan Mesko

Punter Zoltan "The Inconceivable" Mesko began his march to the Heisman (according to Brian at MGoBlog) with an impressive 3 punt performance that went for an average of 41.7 yards per kick. His three punts went for 45 yards, 35 yards and 45 yards and the first two punts were downed without a return. Zoltan is a lefty and has a lot of hang-time as well as distance on his punts. One thing to watch for in future games, however, is how fast Zoltan gets the punt away. Although Vanderbilt never came close to pressuring one of Zoltan's magnificent kicks it seemed to my untrained eye that he was a little slow in getting the kicks away. It would be interesting to time him as I believe his delivery is a little bit deliberate which might make him susceptible to blocks down the road in the face of a "jailbreak rush."

Ross Ryan

The new lower kicking tee had a more pronounced effect than I anticipated. Last season, Ross Ryan boomed 40 of his 69 kickoffs for touchbacks. Using the new 1" tee against Vanderbilt, Ryan was only able to hit 1 of 6 kickoffs for a touchback. The new tee seems to be costing kickers approximately 10-12 yards in distance. This is going to put a premium on kickoff coverage this season as Ryan will not just be able to boom the ball to the endzone with any regularity. For the Vanderbilt game, Ryan officially hit his 6 kickoffs for 355 yards for a 59.2 yard average with 1 touchback. For those who are wondering, college kickers tee off from their own 35-yard line meaning they have to hit it 65 yards to get it to the opponent's endzone.

Garrett Rivas

In an effort that drives Michigan fans mad, field goal kicker Rivas went 2-3 including a career long field goal and a blocked field goal attempt. Rivas hit a 48-yarder in the second quarter which topped his career best of 47-yards which he had done 4 times as a Wolverine. That make helped salve the wounds of the faithful who were upset about the 42-yarder that was blocked earlier that quarter. As I noted in a post on July 5, 2006, Rivas did not make a field goal of 40 or more yards in the last 5 games of the 2005 season. Thus, I was quite glad to see him hit a 48-yarder in game 1 of the 2006 season. I do not think the fans should get too down on him for the blocked kick. As I noted in my post in July, Rivas will not make every kick but he is a very good kicker and the fans should be trying to boost his confidence so that he will be a strong asset to the 2006 team.

Go Blue!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Offensive showing

The Wolverines scored 27 points and amassed 381 yards of total offense (246 rushing; 135 passing) on Saturday versus Vanderbilt. As expected, Michigan did not "show" much as it worked out of basic offensive sets and stuck largely to the ground game. With Mike DeBord back in the booth calling the plays as offensive coordinator, the Wolverines were able to establish a running game against the Commodores largely on the strength of Mike Hart and the left side of the offensive line (Jake Long and Adam Kraus). A healthy Hart was a wonder to watch as he rolled to 146 yards on 31 carries (4.7 yard/per carry avg.).

QB Chad Henne only threw 22 passes on Saturday. DeBord's play calling was reminiscent of Bo's Jim Harbaugh-era offense where Michigan would pass the ball 20-25 times per game. Normally, DeBord and Carr try to shoot for an even balance between the running and passing game in terms of yardage but the game plan for the Vanderbilt game was to establish the run. Coming off the 2005 season in which Michigan finished 9th in the Big 10 in rushing, the coaches wanted to establish the running game right out of the gate this season. Employing a restricted passing attack in game one, the Wolverines merely passed the ball enough to keep the defense honest. Henne only completed 10 passes although two of them went for touchdowns.

Michigan's new zone blocking scheme on offense seemed to work well as Hart was able to hit the holes created by the O-Line. Hart displayed an uncanny ability to change direction and find the seam. He handled the bulk of the workload as he had 31 rushes. I thought that Michigan ran the risk of overusing Hart in a game they had well in hand. As Michigan is very deep at running back and they do not want to run to risk of Hart suffering another injury, I thought they should have limited him to 25 carries against Vanderbilt. With freshmen Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor needing experience I thought they could have and should have taken some of the workload off of Hart. The three back-ups who saw action (Kevin Grady, Brown and Minor) only handled 9 carries to Hart's thirty-one. Obviously, Hart was running strong but he ran strong in last season's opener before suffering an injury in game 2 that plagued him for the remainder of the season. The season is going to be a long haul and the Wolverines are deep at the running back position so they do not need "to ride" Hart so hard in this type of game. I think Hart should be limited to 20-25 carries next week vs. Central Michigan University.

Down and Distance

One of the most impressive things about the performance of Michigan's offense was its' performance on First Down. It seemed as if Michigan was in Second & Five time and again on Saturday afternoon. Michigan ran 21 times on first down (out of 30 first down plays) and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. For the entire game Michigan averaged 4.8 yards per rush which is a marked improvement over last season. In 2005, Michigan only averaged 3.9 yards per rush. With favorable down & distance, the Wolverines had a lot more options on offense. One of Coach Carr's biggest complaints about 2005 was that the Wolverines got themselves into too many unfavorable down and distance situations because of the poor rushing game and the Wolverines consequently repeatedly found themselves in obvious passing situations against defenses who were "bringing the house" on the obvious passing downs. If Michigan can keep up the solid gains on First Down this season as it did vs. Vanderbilt the offense will encounter much more success than it did a season ago.

Penalties, Sacks and Turnovers

After the game Coach Carr was quoted as saying, "Penalties, sacks and turnovers really ruined what could have been an outstanding offensive effort." Actually, I thought that was a rather tough assessment by Coach Carr. In my (uninformed) estimation what hampered the offensive effort was dropped passes by the receivers but Coach Carr did not mention that here but I'm sure he and Coach Campbell (Wide Receivers) will have something to say about it this week when they review film with the players.

As for sacks, Chad Henne was only dropped once by Vanderbilt (for a nine yard loss). Henne did a fine job of avoiding the rush and buying himself some time. I've never seen that out of him before and I was impressed. On the turnover front, Grady's fumble on the Vanderbilt 19 just before halftime was Michigan's lone turnover of the game although that was somewhat of an untimely one. It was interesting to note that Grady only had one more carry the rest of the game. If there is one thing that Coach Carr will not abide it is turnovers. I felt badly for Grady especially because he looked so impressive on his 19-yard TD run on the first drive of the game. Nevertheless, the amount of carries he will see this season will be limited if Coach Carr does not trust that he will hang onto the ball. On the penalty front, the Wolverines were flagged six times for a total of 54 yards. Most of the penalties seemed to be on the right side of the offensive line. Right Tackle Rueben Riley, Jr. was sent to the bench in the 4th quarter after picking up his second flag of the day. Right Guard Alex Mitchell (who experienced some problems of his own during the game) slid over to Right Tackle and Justin Schifano came in at Right Guard. Not all the penalties were incurred by the offensive line however. Wide Receiver Carl Tabb incurred a flag for lining up offsides and then he incurred the wrath of the coaches. Although he started, Tabb did not see much playing time during the game and he will not see the field much in future games as a wide receiver if he makes mistakes like that. The coaches have zero tolerance for such errors especially from a 5th-year senior. I expect that true freshman Greg Mathews who saw some action in the 4th quarter will quickly supplant Tabb on the depth chart.

Red Zone Offense

Officially, the box score lists Michigan as a perfect 3-3 on Red Zone Offense from the Vanderbilt game. A team cannot do better than 100 percent so I should not complain but I will point out that statistic is slightly misleading. Grady's fumble on the Vanderbilt 19 with under 3:30 to go in the half was not technically a red zone play because the snap occurred at the Vanderbilt 22 although the fumble occurred within the red zone (inside the opponent's 20-yard line). Thus, Michigan was a perfect 3-3 in the red zone. Nevertheless, technicalties aside, I do not like turnovers that deep in the opponent's territory whether or not it is a yard or two inside or outside the mythical red zone.

Back-Up Quarterback

Back-up QB Jason Forcier got into the Vanderbilt game and took his first ever snap under center in a game as a Wolverine. The problem was that it was the very last play of the game. At least it was a hand-off and the coaches did not make him take a knee on his first and only play as a Wolverine. Now that I've seen Forcier "in action" I feel better about the Wolverines' situation if Henne were to go down with an injury.

Go Blue!

*Note: Both photos contained in this post were taken by Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Michigan 27 Vanderbilt 7

Michigan commenced the 2006 season with a victory today over the Vanderbilt Commodores by the score of 27-7 in front of 109,668 at Michigan Stadium. Following are links to the game recap, box score, game day photos, player participation charts, and player/coach quotes. Much analysis to follow. Go Blue!

Find your seat

Today is the first game and if this is your first trip to the "Big House" you can use the below seating chart to get an idea of where your seats will be today. Do not worry, there is not a bad seat in the house.

Please be advised that there is a parking advisory in affect for today's game as there will be no public parking today (Sept. 2nd) at the Ann Arbor Golf & Outing Golf Course due to wet conditions and that parking is restricted to members only.

Here is a list of what you can bring into the stadium. Also, please be advised that Michigan has now started a system of scanning all tickets at the entry gates and they request each ticket holder hold their own ticket with the barcode facing out to speed the process. That is all. Have fun. Go Blue!!!