Monday, October 19, 2009

Delaware St.: Where Llyod Carr sits in Iowa

It's ironic that one week after reports of Lloyd Carr sitting in a skybox with Iowa supporters in Kinnick Stadium, that the Michigan faithful were given the least Lloyd Carr-esque moment of Rich Rodriguez's tenure: A 63-6 thrashing of lowly Delaware State at the hands of Rich Rodriguez's seemingly unrelenting squad. Not that Rodriguez was particularly ruthless--he did play five quarterbacks in the game and essentially inserted the scout team in the third quarter--or things played out spectacularly against traditional wisdom. But it's difficult to believe that the same game, played under Carr, would produce such a result. In fact, you can be largely certain it wouldn't as Michigan set school records for offensive yardage, yardage in the first half, and points in the first quarter, among other things.

Delaware State, however is also likely the weakest program that Michigan has ever played. It's difficult to blame Michigan for their output because they did everything in their power not to run up the score. It was difficult not to. This was not Rodriguez being a cut-throat coach, dedicated to obliterating every opponent in his way. It was Rodriguez trying to run his team as best he could without thoroughly embarrassing a team that clearly had no business being on the field with the Maize and Blue. This was apparent from the opening kickoff.

It was nice, however, to watch a game that Michigan was calmly in the driver's seat for. Not that I feel like Michigan is back to being the world-destroyer it used to be, but since the Appalachian State game, I haven't felt comfortable watching Michigan, or at least entirely confident, no matter who the opponent. There were too many close calls against inferior competition. When you know you're going to win, it's a good feeling.

All was not settling though. The most glaring problem was the coverage against kickoffs, where some zippy Delaware State player continued to gash the coverage unit, once breaking one off for 51 yards, which set up a Delaware State field goal. Next was the verification of the fear that the depth in Michigan's secondary is as dire as reported. The backups looked completely inept against a Hornets offense that had, to the point they came into the game, looked completely helpless. The defensive line's backups had a nice day, but now is the time to sacrifice a goat for the health of Donovan Warren's extremities. Meanwhile, Greg Matthews is in no danger of losing his punt returning gig (Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms were terrible, and Odoms proved he still hasn't solved his fumble-itis from last year on punt returns). And Denard Robinson looked... scattered. I had been a little skeptical of everyone's criticism of his passing game, thinking it was better than it had looked, but his long-ball touchdowns (which I will likely break down later this week) were horrible, horrible decisions, that against better opponents would've seen him crushed in the backfield. Finally, Michigan had 9 penalties for 93 yards, three (?) of which were facemasks. I only hope that this was a function of backups not having enough experience tackling.

But Michigan used this week to get healthy and prepare for Penn State. They did both things, presumably, as no one was injured, David Molk may be able to play against PSU, and, most importantly, Michigan didn't fall victim to an immensely inferior opponent in doing so--and most comforting, they never looked like they might.

As an aside, if the Dolphins/Colts game a few weeks back wasn't enough to convince you that time of possession is a completely useless statistic, look at the box score from Saturday: Michigan held the ball for 29:50 compared to Delaware State's 30:10.


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