M Football 2011-A Football Night To Remember-M 35,ND 31

By Andy Andersen

At first it looked like AD David Brandon had set up the Wolverines to fail on the biggest possible stage, in prime time, under the newly installed lights.  Before over 114,840 energized spectators,  at home, and with ESPN’s game day on the premises.   It looked like the Coach Hoke “honeymoon” was about to end, and worse yet, the team was going to do something it had not done the two prior years.  Get dominated and lose to the Irish.

In the end, as you know, the first night football game at Michigan Stadium ended in such spectacular fashion that even the pre-game honoree, Desmond Howard could appreciate being honored before the game.  Desmond became the first player in Michigan history named a “Michigan Football Legend”.  His spectacular game winning, 4th down, 4th quarter lay out TD reception of an Elvis Grbac desperation pass against ND, happened twenty years ago.

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M Football 2010- Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 Magnificant Effort And Outcome

Michigan’s Wolverines ended a nasty lack of away from home wins in Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, when they produced an astounding and outstanding come from behind victory in their first competition with Brian Kelly’s Irish.  This was a hard fought football game.  Neither team quit, but finally the Wolverines prospered and the Irish didn’t.

Denard Robinson was even better Saturday than last week against Connecticut, and now totals a stunning 502-yards rushing in just two games. He will surpass Brandon Minor’s entire production for last year soon, and even though I have seldom, if ever, seen one player put the Wolverine’s fortunes on his own back like he has, he is not the only Wolverine that should be credited with this victory.

The defense hit, the OL line blocked reasonably well, and the receivers took some real punishment, but for the most part they were able to hang onto the ball. Roy Roundtree had 8 grabs for 82-yards, which included a 31-yard TD. Suffering internal bruising last week I was surprised to see him in action this week.  Martavious Odoms had 91-receiving yards.  Stephen Hopkins got his first collegiate carry on a two-yard TD run early in the game.

With the exception of a few notable penalties, and a big play at crunch time, they played with enough poise and precision on offense, and surprisingly on run defense, to prove they were the best team on the field.  Three interceptions helped make that decision.  Jonas Mouton got his second career interception, and finished the day with 13 tackles, and Jordan Kovacs had ten.  The defense stumbled at times, and let out a late fourth quarter 95-yard pass play for a TD after the defense had the Irish pinned deep in their own territory.

It was a dispiriting and potentially back-breaking play at crunch time.  Cameron Gordon let the receiver Kyle Rudolph get behind him, and the down three got inadequate pressure on ND QB Crist. Crist hit the receiver in stride, it was 24-21 and it appeared that it was Notre Dame?s day.  But there were a few minutes left.  There was enough time for some Robinson magic. ND?s pass offense was effective but the Wolverines suppressed the run reasonably effectively. The defense protected the lead at the end of the game, with Crist?s last desperation heave sailing harmlessly into the endzone. 

Denard produced the 12-play, 72-yard drive to get the winning score, scampering in from 2-yards out for the Wolverines first and final score of the second half.  It was just enough to produce the much needed 28/24 win.  Two key plays were when he calmly picked up a crucial first down at the ND 35, and then on third and five from the seventeen, he hit Roy Roundtree who was downed at the two.  Denard ran it in for the winning score.

It is simply impossible to ignore the tour de force provided by Robinson Saturday.  In the spring, I kept thinking that Denard might be chewing up M?s defense because it was our own perhaps inadequate defense, and therefore things could change when the actual games and hitting started.  I kept thinking, and wrote, that Tate Forcier might rise to the top because of his experience in starting 12 games last year, and that he would overcome his slow start.

It was a little startling to see that freshman Devin Gardner has truly surpassed Tate on the two deep.  When Denard was a little shaken up, and out for a play, it was the talented Devin that that played the understudy again this game.

I am happy to admit I was dead wrong.  I can sympathize with Tate, and we still may need him, and he could still contribute, but on the basis of just these two games, Denard has been nothing short of phenomenal.  His domination of the playing field is exceptional.  Also, any four-leaf clovers belonged to him and his Wolverines on this day and to not the Irish, as Shoelace was stripped of the ball on one sojourn into the ND secondary, and the Wolverines gobbled it up.  Luck of the Irish?  Not Saturday, but the Irish did get a favorable call.  On TJ Jones TD, tape clearly shows he released possession of the football before he crossed the goal line.  The ball never broke the plane.  Should have been Michigan’s ball at the twenty.

DRob was responsible for 502-yards rushing and passing against ND in the unfriendly confines of ND Stadium.  He has been credited with 885 yards running and passing in just two games.  He is only the 9th QB in NCAA history to rush for 258-yards in a game, and pass for 244-yards in a game.  The 258-yards rushing on 28 carries is 5th in Michigan single game history records.  He was 24 of 40 passing. He broke an 87-yard run for a TD which is the longest in ND Stadium history, and second longest ever against ND.  He set a single game Michigan record for rushing and passing by a QB for the second week in a row, and a B10 record. He had 152-yards rushing in the second quarter. 

When you paste your name into the record books in a winning cause against ND, your accomplishments get recognized nationally.  Denard will have to learn to live with and deal with football fame.  He has hit the big time without question, and seems to be aiming the Wolverines in that direction.

Notre Dame opened the scoring on their first possession by producing a 71-yard TD drive aided by a favorable review, and a 15-yard personal foul by Michigan.  ND QB Dayne Crist punched it in from a yard out.   M 0- ND 7.  All EPs in this game were good.  Somewhere early in this quarter Crist took a blow to the head that that took him out of the game until the second half.  Michigan?s defense abused his inexperienced replacements, including Nate Montana, Joe’s son.

Mouton intercepted ND QB Rees pass, and Denard turned it into points with a 31-yard TD pass to Rountree.  M 7-ND 7.

Then it was a 65-yard, 5-play drive to pay dirt, based on Robinson to Odoms passes.  Stephen Hopkins scored from the one. M 14-ND 7.

Then Denard was off on his 87-yard jaunt late in the second half.  M 21-ND 7.

Crist came back as QB in the second half and heaved a 53-yard TD pass to TJ Jones.  M 21-ND 14, and it was getting a little scary again, which was aggravated by an 8-play 66-yard drive culminating in a 24-yard FG.  M 21-ND 17.  Meanwhile the Wolverines are practicing punting and missing a FG that should have been hit.  Fortunately Michigan picked off another pass off to stop a drive, and the miserable quarter ended, but some of the misery endured.  The pass protection in the 4th was not much better at times, and another FG was missed.  At the 4:15 mark Crist stunned the Blue with the 95-yard bomb described above to make it M 21-ND 24.

It looked like it was over, but no one told Denard Robinson.  He engineered the 12-play, 72-yard winning drive that will become the stuff of legend, and linger a long while in the memories of ND and Michigan fans alike. Seth Broekhuizen  kicked the EP.

Suddenly a little ray of optimism is breaking thought the shroud of pessimism, for the team and for Coach Rodriguez.  Some fans may now think that maybe he can coach after all, and just maybe his teams will be able to compete, even away from Michigan Stadium. 

This is nothing more than a good start to the most important football season in recent memory.  Last year the Wolverines also beat the Irish and nailed some early opponents, only to lay an egg in the last half the season.  With the poise, and confidence of this season?s team, and with Robinson rapidly gaining experience, that seems less likely to happen than last year.

It is a fact this was a very important game for the Wolverines against a rejuvenated Irish team that has the wily Brian Kelly as its new coach.  He will load up with first class talent that matches his system, and he will know how to use it, so this was an excellent year to grab a victory there.  This victory will build Michigan confidence, experience them in winning away from home, and raise expectations, as well as gaining the Wolverines some football notoriety of a welcome kind.  It will bring smiles to the players, coaches and fans, with the drama not forgotten, but pushed to the background for a change.

This is not to imply that the Wolverines are a complete football team at this time.  They need improvement.  They are still a work in progress with dumb penalties, and with some critical mental lapses (the two long pass plays, for example).  The kicking and punting aspects of special teams need to improve in a hurry.  The two missed field goals are blisters, the KOs too short, and they often give opponents good field position.  The punting has not been up to Mesko level as yet. I thought this might be costly in the ND game but it proved a non-factor this time but later it might catch up with us.

As predicted the pass defense is a work in progress, but bring on the Minutemen.

The only sad note of the day is that Ron Kramer is no longer with us.  He passed away Saturday. He was a great athlete at Michigan in the mid-fifties, a nine-letter winner.  He carried his team on his back, and had a great pro career with the Packers and Lions.

It was Ron who revived my interest in Wolverine Football in the fifties, and I shall never forget his accomplishments and his respect and appreciation of all things Michigan.

Go Blue!

Michigan Football 2009: Forcier, Stonum, Mathews, and Minor-M 38 ND 34

By Andy Andersen

In what was one of the most exciting games in the modern Wolverine/Irish football series, Forcier, Stonum, Mathews and Minor played major roles in a 38-34 victory. Michigan finally prevailed at least partly and maybe mostly due to the outstanding performances of the quartet mentioned in the title above.  Other games in the series have been close and featured outstanding performances, but this one was exciting alpha to omega, featuring two outstandingly productive offenses, and defenses with just enough stops at critical junctures to keep it close, to keep it interesting, to keep it winnable.

It is hard to say the Wolverine defense was outstanding, although at the end of the game they stopped ND enough to enable victory before and after the Tate/Mathews pass/catch that put the Wolverines up for good. An outstanding Stevie Brown hit put the ball on the turf, and when recovered, gave M?s offense good field position to begin one scoring drive.  The defense played hard and never quit, but yielding a total of 590 yards meant it had some problems.

Even so, the eighteenth ranked Irish are a talented, and experienced team.  Their  improving QB Jimmy Clausen and outstanding receivers had M’s CBs for lunch, racking up 336-yards passing, and 3 TDs, but M?s CBs had enough break ups to win.  With an effort and production like ND?s, one wouldn?t expect to lose.  ND receivers Floyd and Tate are extraordinary.  Their lines are huge. Notre Dame rushed for 154-yards missing Aldridge, their best back.  But all that turned out to be a losing combination, as the Wolverines were capable of putting on an offensive show of their own.

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Tate Forcier and the offense countered with outstanding poise and ability in only his second game wearing the winged helmet. He was 23 of 33 for 240 yards and 2 TDs, and rushed 13 times for 70-yards, and a 31-yard dash up the middle for a TD to kept the Wolverines in the game on fourth and three.  He made some mistakes, but always recovered (even after an untimely drive killing fumble and an interception), and played with more poise than can be realistically expected of a skinny freshman.  He simply produced all that was needed to defeat a talented Notre Dame contingent when it was needed.  The kid is a winner.  He is going to get nothing but better with experience.

Tate took the majority of the snaps at OQ, but Denard Robinson contributed with a few runs.  He has to throw the ball now and then so they do not crowd him all the time on his runs.  Once they had Denard in the gun and Tate split left but the play failed.  Tate also had a very decent quick kick that did not fail and was very effective. His quick kick traveled 50-yards and gave Michigan critically needed field position.

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Darryl Stonum ran a kick off back 94-yards for a TD in the first quarter, and  he collared Tate?s pooch punt at about the ND 3-yard line.  I had no idea he was that fast.  The run back gave the Blue a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, and ratcheted up the crowd enthusiasm to deafening peaks.  He also had several key catches, left the game dinged, but not before he had caught 4 for 54-yards.

Greg Matthews did not gain much yardage corralling many punts, but dropped none, and had an outstanding leaping pass reception.  He collared 5 passes for 68-yards and caught one TD, with a long reception of 40-yards.  He managed the winning TD with seconds left on a 5-yard Forcier pass.  I remember about 11 seconds on the clock when the play ended, later that was reduced to 9 seconds as ND took the subsequent snap.

At a critical juncture, a wide open Greg did not look for a Tate pass when he was in route, but appeared to be looking to block. The interception happened at a critical junction, ending a drive late in the game. Fortunately for both Greg and us, he snagged the game winner later.  Vindicated!

That Brandon Minor is Michigan’s most effective running back when healthy was demonstrated Saturday.  He had 16 carries for 106-yards, a TD with a run of 32-yards.

They would not have won without his runs.

While the above players made the most visible contributions to whacking ND, this is still a team sport, and the rest of the team presented great effort, too, did not fall apart under pressure, and also showed great team unity.

THE SCORING:

1st quarter:

Brandon Minor opened the scoring on a two yard run, after  a 79-yard drive featuring a 40-yard Mathews reception.  Olesnavage hit all the afternoon?s EPs and it was M 7, ND 0.

ND answered with a FG.  M 7, ND 3 and it seemed Michigan was going to prevail easily.
After all ND’s opening game drive, while impressive had stalled, and they missed that FG.  Now ND could only respond with a made FG, and Darryl Stonum rocketed up the middle for 94 yards.  Old mo was ours.  Hey, this was fun.  M 14, ND 3.

2nd quarter

ND began to move the ball at will, dominated the statistics, and soon registered  2 TDs to take a 17 to 14 lead.  It seemed they would prevail. There were dominating offensively and would not be stopped.   They then hit a FG to make it ND 20 M 14, and it was looking like last year was coming back.

M finished the scoring for the half, on as Olesnavage hit a FG for 39-yards.  The half ended M 17, ND 20.

Many felt we would see just how good Rodriguez was in answering the  question as to whether they could adjust at the half and hang in there?  Or, overwhelmed, would they quit.

3rd quarter

And indeed they did hang in there, producing a nice drive but failing to score, fumbling, stalling and missing on an Olesnavage FG attempt once again.
Jonas Mouton recovered a fumble caused by Stevie Brown and M’s offense was quickly in business again.  Tate produced a 5 play, 26-yard drive and a TD on a three-yard pass to Koger.  M 24, ND 20.

4th quarter

Tate Forcier expanded M’s lead to 11 again on a 31-yard run up the middle to cap a 6-play, 64-yard drive.  A beautiful run, and the crowd went nuts. M 31, ND 20.

The euphoria didn?t last long as ND produced a pair of scoring dives, with ND hitting a pass, (the 2-point conversion failed) and then scored a TD on a run (two point conversion good).  Now it is getting more desperate all the time.  No more lead.  And it was getting  late in the game with M 31, ND 34.

But no nerves Forcier went to work as this team produced a stunning victory against a ranked opponent, marching on a nine play 58-yard TD drive that was outstanding in its effectiveness.  Tate?s 5-yard completion to Greg Mathews for what proved to be the winning score brought a joyous pandemonium to the crowd the likes of which has seldom been seen.  M 38, ND 34.

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ND used up the 9 seconds remaining and M had prevailed.  The pass to Mathews was preceeded by an 18-yard strike to LaTerryal Savoy that put them on the 5.  Another vindication as Savoy earlier in the drive has one bounce of his chest in the end zone.

This was an outstanding victory over an experienced and talented ND team with a great passing game.  The scene in the old stadium was electric and loud all game, the weather beautiful, Michigan well coached (I’ll leave the dissection of Charlie to the Golden Domers), and the weather perfect.  What more could you expect for your 65 dollars?  This game has to be among the top M/ND games ever played for continuous excitement
Although I talk to some, mainly old-timers, that don’t like the stadium renovations they have improved the beauty and comfort of the venue.  May I say again that it is LOUDER!

It is beginning to seem that Michigan is developing well and may end up being a force in the Big Ten by the end of the season, if things fall their way.  But before that we have Eastern Michigan.  Can you appreciate how badly Coach English wants to down the Wolverines?  They played well against Northwestern.  Toledo and Appalachian State taught there is no such thing as a gimmee.  One more win will match last year?s total wins.

The one Notre Dame fan I talked to after the game said he was from Pittsburg, and blasted Rich Rodriguez, saying he wouldn?t work out at Michigan.  I reminded him that it seemed today that he was working out very well indeed.  End of conversation.

Do you think Michigan State fans woke up today with a Chip on their shoulder?   And how many Bucks got a headache that won?t quit this morning?  Ah, the pleasures of schadenfreude.

This was a great weekend of Michigan Football!

Go Blue!

2007 Michigan Football- UM 38 Notre Dame 0 Game Grades

 

2007 MICHIGAN FOOTBALL GRADES

 


Game 3




“We played Michigan football today. The defense came out and played, the special teams came out and played and the offense came out and played. When you have that, it?s hard to lose.”


Mike Hart, Michigan RB


“I was surprised. I was never expecting for this to happen.”

Sam Young, Notre Dame OL  

Phil’s Game Grades

Offense  A 
Defense  Inc 
Special Teams
Coaching B
Overall   B  

 


It’s always fun to beat the Irish but I they didn’t put up much of a fight.  I think this game tells us more about how putrid Notre Dame is then whether or not the Wolverine have righted the ship.

Offense-  We finally got to see Freshman QB Ryan Mallett thow the ball around.  Mike Hart was unstoppable.

Defense-  I’d love to say the defense is “fixed” but Notre Dame is horrid offensively.  It’s hard to get excited when the Irish were incapable of snapping the ball.

Special Teams-  Punt and kick coverage giving up too many yards.

Coaching-  As bad as Notre Dame is, this was still a nice victory for the Wolverines.  But next week against Penn State will a be better indicator of where this team is at.