Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bowling Green: What to hope for recap

The Bowling Green game was Michigan's last real cupcake opponent on the schedule and as such, they had the ability to try out a few new things and get younger players some game experience. I laid out what I was hoping to see last week and I figured it would be good to follow up to see how it all went down.
  • Most importantly for me (and probably most Michigan fans) was seeing playing time for the freshmen cornerbacks (Cullen Christian, Courtney Avery, and Terrence Talbott). Michigan got them all into the game and in the case of the latter two, they saw a significant amount of snaps. Avery and Talbott were both part of a nickel package that Michigan implemented frequently on passing downs. So not only was Michigan able to get playing experience for some of their young need-to-be-contributors, but they also debuted a man coverage nickel package that I had been begging for. Christian's performance was a little disappointing. He got beat a few times in coverage, though Bowling Green's quarterbacks weren't able to exploit it. One time in particular, Christian tried playing bump and run coverage when standing five yards off the line of scrimmage. It ended in a blown coverage, but it was a good learned experience. On the next play, Christian was in far better position and was able to jam his receiver at the line.
  • Snaps for Devin Gardner was probably the next most critical goal of the Bowling Green game. After Denard went down early, Gardner came into the game and closed out the first quarter, as well as played a little time in the second before being replaced by Tate Forcier. Gardner was, in a word, inconsistent. He had a few very nice throws downfield (about more which later) but struggled mightily on the zone read and looked overmatched occasionally. Once, he even reverted to that hideous sidearm throwing motion he uses when he's pressured. I was hoping that Forcier would play the third quarter and Gardner would be afforded the entire fourth quarter, but instead Forcier played at least one whole possession in the fourth, taking away a good number of snaps from Gardner. Then again, Forcier is clearly the team's #2 quarterback right now, so getting him more snaps is not altogether bad.
  • The defense looked improved albeit against significantly worse competition. I'm still far more pessimistic about this team's chances because of the defense than most around the Michigan blogosphere. While a lot of people are recalibrating preseason expectations up to 8-4 or 9-3 (the former, how I predicted the team would finish before the season), I'm actually being a little more hesitant and looking at 7-5. I hope I'm wrong. Regardless, the defense looked improved, got a number of sacks, and had a few nice pass break ups, one of which came on a quick slant that was defended expertly by Courtney Avery.
  • As mentioned above, Michigan took a few shots downfield. I knew that Bowling Green was a team that Michigan wouldn't struggle to move the ball against, so taking a few gambles down the field and potentially throwing away plays wasn't something Michigan really had to worry about. Gardner proved he's probably the best downfield passer on the team by throwing two perfectly thrown deep shots. Denard didn't really have a chance to go downfield, and Forcier's only long ball was an underthrown lob because of a scramble (that ended amicably in a defensive pass interference call). In any case, you can see Rodriguez sending outside receivers on fly routes down the sideline in an effort to keep defenses honest. This will be a big advantage in the future.
Those are really the main things I identified before the game. I was happy to see Will Campbell get some snaps in the game because he's someone who I've been advocating gets more playing time this season. If Michigan goes to more four-man defensive lines, I'd like to see him on the field more. And seeing Drew Dileo take back a few punts was a nice introduction to his skillset. In the end, the Bowling Green game is a tough one to pull many negatives out of.


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