Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:03 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
MICHIGAN WON. For the first time in nearly 3,000 days, Michigan has a victory over Ohio State in football. The Wolverines needed a ton of points to finally get over the hump, but when the dust settled, it was the Wolverines with a 40-34 victory. Denard Robinson was brilliant in victory, throwing for 167 yards and three scores on 14/17 passing and adding 26 rushes for 170 yards and two more TDs. For OSU, Braxton Miller looked like a force to be reckoned with in years to come, going 14-25 for 235 yards and two passing scores while rushing 16 times for 100 yards and other score -- a 19-yard beauty that gave OSU a 17-16 lead.
WHY MICHIGAN WON: Michigan took a page out of Ohio State's gameplan and rushed nearly 75% of the time on Saturday, and it was a recipe for success. Robinson's 170 yards led the team, but Fitzgerald Toussaint added 120 yards of his own on 20 carries, and Ohio State really had no answer on defense for Michigan's physical rushing game. Even Robinson ran with authority, frequently putting his head down and fighting for extra yardage and first downs. His effort was as conspicuous as it was successful, and doubtless his Wolverine teammates fed off that determination.
WHEN MICHIGAN WON: When Courtney Avery intercepted a 4th down Braxton Miller pass with under a minute left. It looked as if Michigan was putting the game away on the prior drive, when Fitz Toussaint and Denard Robinson appeared to score touchdowns on consecutive plays. But Toussaint was ruled down a foot away from the goal line, and Robinson's score was wiped out by a holding call and a personal foul for a late hit, which pushed the Wolverines all the way back to the OSU 26. Brendan Gibbons would eventually convert a field goal from there to push the lead to 40-34, but that six-point margin meant Ohio State still had some life at the end of the game.
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.
WHAT OHIO STATE LOST: Without Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel, this was going to be a tough season for Ohio State no matter what, and the 6-6 (3-5) record certainly reflects that. Not many people in Columbus are really holding it against Luke Fickell, necessarily -- again, meeting Ohio State's usual standards of success was a nearly impossible task -- but Fickell at least had the opportunity to turn this year into a one-game season with a game against Michigan. "At least we still own Michigan" would have been a reassuring mantra as OSU fans prepared for a coaching regime change and NCAA punishment, but now Ohio State has to acknowledge that this is now, at long last, a two-team rivalry again.
THAT WAS CRAZY: In the second quarter, Ohio State caught a major break when Michigan punter Will Hagerup muffed a routine long snap. The miscue surprised everyone in the stadium, Hagerup included, and it led to this classic screencap of Hagerup's reaction to the ball in midair. Oh, it also led to a short field and an eventual field goal for the Buckeyes, but we're happier focusing the screencap.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:19 am
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
In the biggest "statement game" of Michigan's season, the Wolverines welcomed Nebraska to the Big House with a 45-17 butt-kicking. The game had been tied 10-10 midway through the second quarter, then Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint -- seen above -- simply took over the game (with Nebraska's complicity; more on that in a second), especially on the ground.
Before the Nebraska field goal by kicker Brett Maher tied the game at 10, Michigan had thrown the ball on nine of 25 plays. Afterwards? 10 throws on 55 plays. The difference was that offensive coordinator Al Borges was able to put his trust in the offensive line to give Toussaint rushing lanes and Robinson the time to scramble and improvise. The result was 186 rushing yards after that 10-10 tie, and 238 as a whole.
LOSER: Nebraska's special teams
Of course, we would be remiss in not pointing out that the reason that Michigan stayed so run-heavy in the second half was because Nebraska's defense just plain couldn't get off the field -- and the Husker special teams had a lot to do with that. Kenny Bell and Tim Marlowe each fumbled second-half kickoffs, and Nebraska also allowed a fake field goal to be converted on 4th and 1 at the 5-yard line and committed a costly roughing the punter penalty in the 4th quarter. All in all, the four miscues would eventually lead to 21 points for the Wolverines, and the worst part for Nebraska is that it could have been worse; Marlowe's fumbled return only led to a missed field goal.
All in all, that's a level of generosity that cost Nebraska the opportunity to even make a game of it against Michigan, and while those miscues are more an aberration than a trend that needs to be remedied, they still led to a costly third loss for Nebraska -- one that could very welll keep the Huskers out of the top tier of the Big Ten's non-BCS bowls.
WINNER: Michigan State
Coming into this week, Michigan State needed a win over Indiana and a Michigan win over Nebraska to sew up the Legends division. Michigan, of course, played its part. And good heavens, did Michigan State ever put an exclamation point on its division title, slamming Indiana 55-3 in a contest that probably violated an international statute of warfare or 12. Geneva is unamused by this use of Keshawn Martin on helpless Hoosiers, Sparty.
So while it's a little misleading to say MSU is playing its best football of the season just three weeks after being drubbed 24-3 by Nebraska (and two weeks after beating Minnesota by only a touchdown), it is safe to say the Spartans are looking capable of bringing a dangerous team to Indianapolis in December. The Capital One Bowl brass is probably the happiest of anyone to see this bumplet of success from East Lansing as the Spartans prepare for the championship; MSU lost 49-7 to Alabama in that bowl just last season, and bowl reps usually don't need much of a reason not to bring a team back for a second year in a row.
LOSER: Ohio State's momentum
QB Braxton Miller is improving week to week, RB Boom Herron is healthy and putting up big numbers in the terrifying Buckeye ground game, and now WR DeVier Posey's back and making big plays from the word go. So why's Ohio State on a two-game losing streak and in real danger of going .500 on the year?
It's a legitimate question, and one that a simple answer of "because Luke Fickell isn't good enough" doesn't adequately answer. Perhaps some of it is Fickell's inexperience as head coach, but he also had to deal with a slew of suspensions and the loss of a quarterback -- a loss that Ohio State just plain wasn't prepared to address this season. Braxton Miller may be showing flashes of greatness now, but in September, he could barely outplay Joe Bauserman. Things were not good.
Still, losses to Purdue and a reeling Penn State team are probably enough to convince Ohio State brass that no matter how unlikely the problems of 2011 are to repeat in 2012, the program needs a more experienced coach at the helm. And that's probably the correct call. But you've got to think that if Fickell gets replaced, he'll look back at these last two weeks and think about how close he was to delivering a solid season -- and earning the head coaching job long term.
WINNER: The rest of Penn State's season
No, Penn State didn't gain any ground in the Leaders Division race; that situation continues to come down to next week's Penn State-Wisconsin game, and it wouldn't have mattered if the Nittany Lions came into that one with a one-game lead or a tie. But strictly from the perspective of returning to normal, Penn State gained a huge victory by hanging on to win at Ohio State. PSU never threatened to score after being stuffed on a goal line stand midway through the third quarter, and all the Buckeyes needed to do in the second half was score seven points to take the lead. That, clearly, didn't happen; Linebacker U stood tall on defense and kept the Buckeyes from taking a single snap in field goal range after halftime, and the second half shutout preserved a 20-14 victory.
In terms of what the win represents to Penn State, division ramifications aside, it's huge. Even leaving out the emotional impact of the football program on the fanbase -- that's a can of worms best kept shut -- there's basically no way Penn State could have taken two straight losses to lower-ranked opponents, then walked into Camp Randall (where the Badgers have outscored their opponents by an average score of 52-12 this year) and come away with a win -- especially not with an interim head coach on the sidelines, forced to argue against all evidence that the world is not caving in on the program in a tailspin. But with this win, that tailspin's not happening, and Penn State can take a deep breath and begin preparation for the Badgers.
LOSER: Wisconsin's what could have been
In case you hadn't noticed, the Top 10 was basically incinerated this week, starting with Iowa State's shocking upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State on Friday and continuing on through Baylor's 45-38 stunner vs. Oklahoma late Saturday night. No, Wisconsin doesn't have anything to do with those games, but therein lies the problem. Just one month ago, Wisconsin was 6-0, ranked fourth in the nation, and rolling through its competition. Then two Hail Mary losses demolished Wisconsin's national standing, and the Badgers are still ranked 17th and unlikely to move much higher after a lackluster 28-17 win over Illinois.
It's a shame, because Wisconsin's got the talent to hang with just about anybody in the nation, and this sudden swarm of chaos in the Top 10 would have been the perfect way for the Badgers to start sneaking up toward the Top 5 even with one loss; they'd quite assuredly be ranked second if undefeated. But alas, Kirk Cousins and Braxton Miller had other ideas for the fate of Wisconsin's season, and as a result a team that looked like a very strong BCS contender will likely walk into the Rose Bowl as a borderline Top 10 team instead.
WINNER: Marvin McNutt
It's getting difficult to find a way in which Marvin McNutt isn't the best receiver Iowa's ever had. McNutt owns career marks in yards, touchdowns, and receptions at Iowa, and he just added the single-season touchdown mark to his single-season yardage mark today in a nine-catch, 151-yard, two-touchdown effort. McNutt made multiple highlight-reel catches in the game, including this juggling wonder that basically sealed Iowa's 31-21 victory over Purdue. It's a crying shame that McNutt, who's putting up these numbers in a non-pass-wacky offense, isn't being considered for the Biletnikoff Award, because he's been nearly unguardable this season.
LOSER: Anyone who felt like paying attention to more than two or three Big Ten games this week
We understand that networks have their reasons for wanting certain games at certain times, and that it's going to be difficult to drum up support for 'Cats-Gophers as anything but an early kickoff. We get that. We also realize that there's a very good reason for the Big Ten to not allow night games in November, since the Midwest is a cold, inhospitable prison of a region once the sun goes down this time of year. But when the Big Ten ends up with five of its six games all taking place at the same time, something's clearly out of whack, and it makes it extremely difficult for the most passionate fans of the conference to enjoy very much of it.
That all said, it's also a credit to the conference that it has a media presence robust enough to get all five of those games televised live (and in HD!), and without having to resort to an online video service (pay-per-view or otherwise) or ESPN GamePlan. Sure, it took two Big Ten Network overflow channels to make it happen, and not everybody has those extra channels, but as other major conferences struggle to get every game on TV even when there aren't many other conference games going on, it's nice to see the Big Ten at least up to this task.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:46 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: Its mobile quarterback can curtail his errant throws and open up easy passes with his running ability. Yes, Nebraska has a gifted option quarterback, but that doesn't mean that his passing skills are up to par with... Hang on a second. If this is Nebraska's key, then what's Michigan's...
MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Its mobile quarterback can curtail his errant throws and open up easy passes with his running ability. Glitch! We have a glitch!
In all seriousness, Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson aren't that similar as players, and the Nebraska and Michigan offenses are fundamentally dissimilar as well. While Nebraska doesn't run an offense heavy on wishbone or I-formation triple option like the days of yore, it does utilize heavy amounts of read option between Martinez and Rex Burkhead. Martinez is also being trusted to throw the ball more often, and he's been improving in that facet over the last couple weeks.
Still, Martinez is most dangerous as a runner at this point, and if you give him a lane, he'll take it -- and Nebraska's downfield blocking is good enough that Martinez can potentially take that open lane for a score from any point on the field. Thus, the key for the Michigan defense is to get Martinez out of his comfort zone and force him to make split-second decisions to do something with the ball -- a pitch on the option, a check-down in his pass progression, a scramble to the outside when, say, Mike Martin blows up the front of the pocket. Those are situations that turn Martinez into a less effective player, and that's what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison needs to strive for.
On the other sideline, Nebraska's aims on defense should be different. Denard Robinson is a wonderfully gifted improviser with the football, so quite unlike Martinez, Nebraska should make sure Robinson doesn't have to make the split-second decisions. That's what he's good at! No, the lesson defensive coordinator Carl Pelini should have taken from Michigan's losses is that you don't give Robinson the edge; it's all contain, contain, contain, then funnel, funnel, funnel to the middle of the field. Lavonte David needs to have about 30 tackles in this game.
X-FACTOR: The tailbacks. Both Michigan and Nebraska also have hard-nosed running backs that will probably be getting 20 carries in this game -- Burkhead for Nebraska, and Fitz Toussaint for Michigan -- and while Burkhead's much more of a focal point of the Nebraska offense than Toussaint is, Toussaint is certainly capable of breaking a long run or two and getting over 100 yards. Both players are tough to bring down once they get a full head of steam, but Burkhead in particular is the kind of guy you need to bring down at the line or prior, or he's getting 5-10 yards and that drive's going to keep going. So if Michigan lets Nebraska move the point of attack, it might not be enough to just wait for Taylor Martinez to make a bad play or three.
Posted on: September 30, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2010 1:12 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
We know for a fact that Denard Robinson will be terrorizing the Indiana defense this Saturday as his knee has healed and he's ready to set the Earth on fire once more. Which is very good news for Michigan because Robinson may be the only running back the team has by the time Saturday rolls around.
While most of the attention during Michigan's win against Bowling Green last week was paid to Robinson's knee, he wasn't the only member of the Wolverines backfield to get dinged up. The team's second-leading rusher Michael Shaw hurt his knee too, and Fitz Toussaint -- who missed the first three games with a knee injury -- hurt his shoulder.
Neither player practiced on Wednesday and Rich Rodriguez isn't sure whether they'll be available to play on Saturday.
"They're kind of day-to-day, and their status is probably doubtful for Saturday," he said. "We'll see how they progress the next couple of days."
All of which means that Denard Robinson is going to have to step up his productivity. Instead of supplying Michigan with merely 95% of their offensive output, he's going to have to provide 99.99%. If he wants to take over as placekicker or return kicks as well, even better.