Monday, September 13, 2010

Notre Dame: Where it feels like 2009... only better

My recent relocation to California has meant a number of things: an absolute drain of my bank account, the general tardiness of this blog as I search for jobs (e.g., this post), and the meeting of my friends' friends. After the UConn game last week, one of said strangers commented to our mutual friend, "That Chris kid is really intense about football." "Intense" is a nice way of saying, "I don't want to watch football with him anymore," I think.

In the first quarter of the game against Notre Dame, Michigan started running a new QB draw--which, for the sake of continuity, I will call the QB stretch--wherein Denard would follow his lead blocker and run outside of the tackles instead of between them. Notre Dame didn't have too much trouble stopping it because they were blitzing their nickel back with abandon. After a third-down stop, I started jumping around saying, "They can't keep blitzing their nickel back. It's going to burn them. We're going to burn them." My friends looked at me and I presume the only word that came to their mind was Intense. Then on the first play of Michigan's next drive, this happened:
Notre Dame selling out their secondary like that was bound to cost them sooner rather than later. It was blatantly obvious to me and I'd bet it was obvious to Calvin Magee and Rich Rodriguez too, hence, above. The incredible thing was that it actually worked. For the last two years, you could see the lifeless form of something that Rodriguez has been trying to craft, a mess of blocking schemes and counters and You Didn't See That Coming daggers that either just missed or failed miserably. Denard Robinson has not only made these plays possible, he's turned this Michigan squad into NCAA Football 2010. If you see someone blitzing from the corners, you casually throw quick slants or screen passes (as they did against UConn). Want to run around in the pocket for 10 seconds and then scramble for 15 yards? Sure, we can do that. Watching Rodriguez and Magee call these games has been the most joyous experience of the last two years. It just works now.

Which is not to say everything's fixed. This team has a lot of flaws and eventually, people will start daring someone, anyone other than the fastest football player on earth to beat them. But for now, we get to enjoy what was promised to us when Bill Martin was sailing on a yacht and Michigan grabbed a southern boy from West Virginia to be their head coach.

  • Remember when I said this?
Aside from not having much information on the opponent yet, making a prediction based on last week's performance is near sighted and assumes that Denard Robinson is going to once again be the most prolific quarterback in Michigan history. Like Forcier last year, teams will adjust to his style and learn how to shut him down. Notre Dame wasn't able to do that last year and chances are they won't be able to do it against Robinson tomorrow either. Regardless, seeing a more human side of Robinson seems realistic.

          Yeah, nevermind.
  • Michigan's defense isn't good but it's going to confuse a lot of quarterbacks. Michigan's three interceptions yesterday were a 60/40 split of general quaterback incompetence and confusing zone drops. The linebackers/spur/bandit are blanketing under zones really well and making it difficult for quarterbacks to read where they're going to be. This is a huge positive. Unfortunately...
  • Cam Gordon needs to not allow 6'6", 265 lbs tight ends run right by him for touchdowns. That's a bad thing.
  • For all of the unlucky stuff that's happened to this program over the last two years, the temporary blindness of Dayne Crist is at least a few Karma Points back in our favor. If he's healthy the whole game, Michigan goes down in flames. Games against MSU and Wisconsin now look a little more harrowing.
  • As much as I want to declare Michigan "back" or "real" or any of the other terms that would indicate we're not the worst team in school history again, I'm reminded of last year. I'm being very cautious here. You should too. One or two more injuries (and not just to Denard) and they basically can't even field a defense.


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