Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maize n Brew Review: Michigan 47 Notre Dame 21

Twelve years without a win in South Bend was a little too much for me to handle. As it turns out, it was too much for Michigan too. The Wolverines crushed Notre Dame at Notre Dame stadium this past weekend by 26 points. Michigan picked off 3 Brady Quinn passes and pounced on 2 ND fumbles while spending most of the day in the Notre Dame backfield. When not busy torching Notre Dame's secondary, Mario Mannigham was practicing touchdown celebrations and hanging out with the Michigan Band in Notre Dame's endzone.

I had the pleasure of meeting ND bloggers from House Rock Built, Mark May Be Wrong, and Blue Gray Sky. Good times gents. Thanks. Tailgating with them was a blast and I hope to return the favor next year at the Michigan Notre Dame game in Ann Arbor.

Thanks to close friends from Notre Dame I was able to secure a seat to the game. 33 rows back, southwest corner of the endzone. Perfect seat to watch everything. I saw Burgess sprint towards me on the game's second play, Manningham's first grab, Hart's bound into the enzone, and all the whithering hits of the defense

I will say one thing before moving onto the Offensive review. We won. Now move on. Maintain a sense of humor about everything but conduct yourself with class. While it is Michigan Football, it still is, after all, only a game. One of the things that was most heartening to me was the sight of Michigan and Notre Dame supporters shaking hands after the game and raising beers to the other team. While I'm sure there were a few bad apples on both sides, the majority of fans remembered what college football is all about.

Maize n Brew Review: Michigan 47 Notre Dame 21


Head Coach
Lloyd Carr: A+

"Lloyd Carr looked his nemesis in the eye on Saturday, while all eyes in Ann Arbor--and the rest of a skeptical college football world--were focused on him. When one contemplates the completeness of this Michigan man's triumph in South Bend, it's hard to recall a greater, more authoritative response to pressure on the part of a coach and team."
- Irish Eyes

That sums it up perfectly. Over the years many have painted Lloyd as a crotchety old fart, too stuborn and set in his ways to change his imperfect course. He's too conservative. He'll always play for the Big Ten title but nothing more.

On Michigan's third offensive possession he put those allegations to rest. He was the old man, supposedly on his last legs going into South Bend. He emerged from it like a man who had swan dived into the fountain of youth.

Lloyd prepared and executed a gameplan many thought he was incapable of. He was aggressive over the top of the field. Runs and passes were intermixed with regularity. Throws over the middle and to the corners of the endzone were called often. He biltzed. Blitzed some more. And just for good measure blitzed again. He was aggressive on 3rd down.

Most importantly, after Henne's ill-advised first pass went awry, Lloyd didn't cocoon. Instead he put the ball right back in Henne's hands and gave him orders to throw. He knew who he had under center. In fact he knew everyone he had on that field. He recruited them. He trained them. He showed faith in them when many doubted them. He gave them the opportunity to prove what they were made of.

Carr coached like he had an advantage. That's all any of us can ask for.

Offensive Coordinator
Mike DeBord: A

Perfect gameplan against an overmatched secondary. While everyone has been talking up the Irish secondary, telling us their faster than ever, that they've been tested, no one had gone at them. After Saturday that's going to change dramatically.

DeBord mixed run and pass perfectly. He coached to his strengths and pounded the ball through an undersized ND line. Notre Dame was insanely aggressive on the first two series sacking Henne and forcing an INT. DeBord immediately shifted gears and went up top. The next possession with the Irish looking pass he rammed it through the center of the ND defense.

While Michigan did take the foot off the accellerator a tad during the second half, DeBord managed to eat up insane amounts of clock during that time. Hat's off to Mike

Defensive Coordinator
Ron English: A

Only reason I don't give him an A+ was he admittedly took his foot off Notre Dame's throat at the end of the second quarter. Had Michigan clamped down and not allowed a TD before the half, not only would Notre Dame have been broken heading into the locker room with no momentum, I wouldn't have been a panicked mess through to the fourth quarter. Having attened the infamous Colorado game in 1994 I know full well that anything is possible when a team has a chance. ND fans I talked to felt they still had a shot to win, even into the fourth. clamp down at the end of the half and the game is over.

Still, if that's where I'm finding fault I must be one sick bastard. English's game plan was fantastic. Quinn never got set. Someone was always in his face. There always seemed to be more people on the line and in coverage than Notre Dame had to block or run with. English played like he had the advantage and he pushed it. The blitzes, the safety help, the way the Linebackers play (I heart Steve Szabo), everything. Best defensive game I've ever seen Michigan play.

However, everyone knows he's going to come after you now. The proof of "new hotness" status will be getting it done now that everyone's had a good look at your defense. However, for Saturday, nearly flawless.

Quarterback: A-

Chad Henne: A-

Henne was 13-22, passing for 220 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. The passing numbers weren't huge. His first throw was an INT. Those are my only complaints.

During the first two series of the game, Notre Dame made it clear it was up to Henne to beat them. Understanding this, Chad pulled out a 2x4 and beat them senseless. Despite a horrid throw to open the game, Henne pulled it all together on Michigan's third possession and smart bombed the Irish secondary. Not counting the INT, Michigan was up 27 to 7 before Henne threw and incomplete pass. On 3rd and 9 at the Notre Dame 22, Henne lofted a perfect touch TD to Manningham in the corner of the endzone to put Michigan up 34-7.

He was efficient. He was smart. He was poised. He was what we expect out of Michigan Quarterback. And that's pretty impressive.

Running Backs: A+

Mike Hart: A+

31 Carries for 124 yards and a TD.

Punishing. Relentless. Even when Notre Dame found themselves in the Michigan backfield more often than not they came up grabbing air. As usual Hart turned 2 yard losses into 4 yard gains. His legs never stopped.

The most notable thing about him is he never gets "popped". If he has, I haven't seen it. He always seems to avoid the big hit, but without cowering away from it. The hits seem like deflections. Like wind gusts that are just enough to throw him off balance and allow gravity to momentarily touch his jeresey.

Critized as lacking "turn the corner" speed he seemed to find his way to the outside when he wished. Then he would blow past the first and second line of defenders before finally being brought down by the safeties. Just as important Hart was a crucial blocker in the passing game. He never missed a pass protect assignment, constantly buying Henne that extra half second to make the throw. Just awesome.

Kevin Grady: INC

He had one spectacular "you're not bringing me down" run where he plowed over half of the defense in route to a 9 yard gain. Other than that, it wasn't his show. Today belonged to Mike Hart.

Wide Receivers: A-

Mario Manningham: A+

He was hiding something. That we finally know for sure. The coma we thought our receivers were in was just a clever ruse to lull defensive backs into a sense of security and safety. And boy did it work. Manningham's first three receptions went for touchdowns and broke 100 yards receiving. In the first half! Had the game been closer it is concevable that he could've crossed the 200 yard barrier.

His routes were excellent. He beat inferior dbs like he is expected to. For the first time all year he showed us why he is the new math.

Steve Breaston: B

Stevie, Stevie, Stevie. When will you stop tormenting me and catch the easy pass? Breaston had his usual day of good routes, some good catches and bad drops. Breaston dropped at least two catchable balls, one of which would've been a touchdown.

Talking with a buddy of mine at the Sox game last night, it's becoming more and more apparent that Steve is best served in a No. 3 role in a 3 WR set. Or simply as a wide receiver screen target to be used against a slacking defense.

That being said, it's always tough to grade Breaston, because you always end up grading him against who you think he should be.

Adrian Arrington: INC

Solid game. The only chance he had to score was an overthrow by Henne in the corner of the endzone. Other than that he was a legit receiving threat all day. Decent run after catch numbers on his two catches. 36 yards on two catches is pretty good. I'm sure there is a pass he missed, but he looked good.

Offensive Line: A-

The Positives: Hart cracked 100 yards. Henne threw for three TDs and had plenty of time to do it. Linemen got to their second level block. The offense ate up clock like Louie Anderson returning from fat camp. Excellent blitz pickups. Oh yeah, Michigan scored 24 on legitimate points, on sustained drives in first half.

The Negatives: On the negative list we have henne getting sacked twice. The interior of the line collapsing on the first two series. Pressure from the ends early.

The only concerning thing I saw was the interior line getting broken early in the game. It's hard to really call it a criticism too, because ND placed 8 or 9 players in the box and simply swamped the O-line. A majority of the tackles for loss came very early in the game and very late in the game as Michigan was solely committed to running the ball. ND's chief pass rusher was held in check the entire game by Riley & Co. The left side of the line absolutey crushed their ND

The running lanes opened for Hart were pretty shocking. On Hart's two big runs of the day it appeared as though the line of scrimage had moved three yards down field before Hart ever touched the ball.

When the line got beat they fixed it. When they found a weakness they exploited it. They kept Henne upright and gave Hart room to work. Excellent game.


At 7:04 PM, Blogger Irish Red said...

Fabulous! Keep it commin!


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