By Andy Andersen
Saturday the Wolverines threw about everything they had at the Cornhuskers including a fake field goal, a gang tackling hustling defense, special teams causing turnovers while not contributing them, and an aggressive Denard Robinson. The Huskers were unable to convert many third downs, and weren’t successful at that until the third quarter.
Denard Robinson, and Fitz Toussaint performed better than their Husker counterparts Burkhead, and Martinez. They are good, but on this afternoon, they were surpassed. The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 minutes to The Huskers 18:39. This is just what the Wolverine coaches ordered, and the Wolverines played the game the coaches had envisioned for them in games past, but they had not yet accomplished it. They made Nebraska one dimensional and then compressed that dimension.
Michigan gained 418 yards to the Huskers 260, having a 7 game win streak going in the Big House this season.
Fitzgerald Toussaint had his fourth 100-yard game of the season, and achieved 138-yards on 29 carries, with two TDs. He is displaying the promise he has shown at practice for so long, and there is no question any more whether or not he is the featured back. He has a nice combination of moves, speed and power, and is improving every game. His last TD was an extraordinary run. He was stopped around the line of scrimmage, slid off, cut, and with a burst of speed put it in the end zone. It was a play of great effort and performance.
Denard Robinson ran well also, getting 83-yards on 23 carries, scored two TDs himself, and tossed for 180-yards and two TDs. He threw one interception, a tipped ball. Not a bad day’s work by anyone’s standard. If you saw it on TV or watched it after being at the game you probably were amazed at the criticism rendered the winning team constantly by Pasch, Speilman and Meyers. Particularly tough on Denard Robinson and consistently questioning how he is used, while slight criticism was heaped on the losers. Obviously Michigan turns them off, and that is what I will do for them next time. Turn them off.
Jeremy Gallon and Martavious Odoms both caught one of Denard’s two touchdown passes. Gallon’s catch in the end zone for the game’s first score was great throw and catch. The one to Odoms was also a very precise pass which Tay caught near the back end of the end zone, with a foot definitely down and the ball firmly in possession. A remarkable play, that was reviewed and the TD confirmed.
How about a defensive performance that only allowed the Big Red two visits to the red zone. Six tackles for loss, three sacks and three fumble recoveries and a block punt constitute a great defensive and special teams day, despite a missed field goal.
Mike Martin was again outstanding. He bulled his way into the opposing backfield, slid off blocks, and is improving all the time. Ryan Van Bergen had two tackles for losses Saturday. Both Martin and Van Bergen provide great defensive leadership. Nebraska’s great running back Burkhead netted just thirty six yards.
Jordan Kovacs had seven tackles and a TFL. Kenny Demens had five tackles, an assisted sack, and a pass breakup.
All in all this was the best overall football the Wolverines have played in November in the last several years. Undoubtedly some of the Big Red’s red was reflected in their face’s postgame, as they made too many mistakes to be victorious. Roughing a kicker, pass interference, and fumbles are examples.
Coach Hoke on playing the best game of the year: “As a team as a whole I would have to agree with you. But there’s still areas that we need to improve. We had great field position in there sometimes offensively, either from our kickoff team knocking the ball out, and we don’t put the ball in the end zone. And then we gave up a long drive defensively and they went in to score to get to 17, and we’ve got to play better. They changed the tempo on us a little bit and I don’t think we handled that as well as we need to. And I think offensively we have some field-position issues and we don’t continue to get first downs.”
While some of the Nebraska fans will probably blame the officiating, their team’s own major goofs help seal their fate, firmly and completely. That many of those mistakes happened because of fine Wolverine play will not solace them so they perhaps will go to “the calls got us” cause of loss explanatioon, as evidenced by some perusal of their web sites postgame.
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini on his team’s gaffs: “We’ve been playing well on special teams. Dropping a punt, not blocking well, you can’t do those things. I don’t know why we dropped the ball. I thought out guys were ready to play. I don’t have the answer why to why we put the ball on the ground twice in the second half. That wasn’t the right call on roughing the punter.”
Have to disagree with that last statement Coach.
Michigan made some errors too, with Denard heaving an interception on a tip, but the Huskers dominated that the error category, especially when the game was on the line in the second half. The defense caused errors have an eerie echo of the 1985 Fiesta Bowl game against Nebraska. That was one in which Bo’s tough defense beat the ball from them often and the Jamie Morris led offense romped. .
My personal view of the Huskers when they were invited to Big Ten membership included some distaste because I thought they begged themselves into a share of a national title they did not deserve in 1997 on the basis of a lucky TD at Missouri, and the retirement of the fabled Tom Osborne.
I did not want them to ease into their first season of B1G play by securing a shot at division title.
But Saturday their fan’s behavior seemed mostly appropriate from what I saw and have been told by others, and I have to admit they will provide great competition.
The Wolverines received to open the game, stalled, and punted. The Huskers then returned the favor.
Denard proved M could move the ball on the Husker defense, rambling for 16-yards, and then using 7 more plays to pay dirt. Roy Roundtree grabbed a 46 yarder to the N five, and Jeremy Gallon collared a six yarder for the TD. M-7, N-0.
Brendan Gibbons hit a 42-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
N immediately remedied this scoring discrepancy with a 54-yard pass play in the worst defensive lapse of the day. Together with an ensuing 51-yard FG it was 10-10. The M advantage has obviously evaporated. Could the defense stop them? Junior Hemingway and Denard gave the defense a little relief. and helped remove doubt.
They contributed two third and six aerial conversions during a 74-yard drive with Denard finally sprinting down the left sideline 14-yards on a designed keeper for six. No conversions were missed all day by either side, and it was 17-10 at the half.
There seemed to be reason to be apprehensive at the half. That big pass play by the Huskers was a downer. How many more could Nebraska manufacture?
Not to worry. N answered that question themselves with a special teams mistake courtesy of Terrence Robinson’s hit on the returner which forced a fumble on the half’s opening kick off. Courtney Avery pounced on it at the N 33-yard line. A 23-yard throwback screen to Gallon got to the one, and Denard scored on a play action roll out. M-24, N-10.
M’s defense held and the Nebraska punter mishandled the snap. He picked it up and got the punt off, but Josh Furman blocked it. The Wolverine offense stalled at the N five and set up a place kick. Holder Drew Dileo took the snap and ran 4-yards for a first down. Nice call by Borges. Fitz T. bounced outside and scored on a one yard run. M-31, N-10.
N answered with a beautiful double option TD run . This well designed, three yard scoring play made it 31-17 and that was too close for comfort.
The Wolverines added two more TDs. The 38-yard TD strike to Odoms previously described made it 38-17 and Fitz added that great 31-yard TD run and it was a very satisfactory 45 to 17 final.
It was great to see Lloyd Carr honored prior to the game for his induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. On Dec. 6 he will also be inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.
Navy Seals gave the team a pep talk, and since David Brandon always has something up his entertainment sleeve, there were four F-16s overhead.
The power supply being off for the scoreboard at one end of the field hindered Denard as he was apparently looking at the wrong official and they had to take a five yard red zone penalty. Brandon will have that fixed next week.
This was the finest win of the Brady tenure so far, and great preparation for the upcoming battle against the Buckeyes. Nine and two over all, and five two in the B1G, already exceeds most fan’s expectations. I predicted they would be 8-5 like nearly every body else.
A victory over the Buckeyes next week would be some tasty icing on the cake. They will come into Ann Arbor steaming mean as usual, and trying to get back on track. Throw their struggles this season out the window. This will be a tough game. I would imagine that practice this week will be intense.
It ought to be quite a game. The Wolverines will be ready and Denard can go all out without fear of being out for the next game without healing time. Hoke has had the Ohio game on his mind every day since he took the job, and this team is still looking for that signature win, although the win over Nebraska comes close.
A win could possibly get the Wolverines into a BCS bowl. Ten and 2 (six and 2 in the B1G) could lead to an 11 win season, and no worse than ten and three.
But none of that matters now. Its the Buckeyes and they deserve the Wolverines total attention and best effort every time regardless of the stakes.