Game Recap: Michigan’s D is Alive
Michigan 31 Illinois 14
In life, change is constant and inevitable. For the Michigan football program, change has been constant for the past four seasons. Much of this change hasn’t been pretty and certainly hasn’t been a good time.
I can tell you one thing, Michigan fans – the Michigan football program is changing for the better. And it might just turn out to be a darn good time.
This is a team and program on the rise. In amazing fashion, it’s Michigan’s defense that qualifies this team’s top 25 status – not it’s offense. In recent years, the team goals changed from a Big Ten championship to simply winning enough games to become bowl eligible. Any win beyond six was a bonus. Now? Pshhh, now in November the goal remains as it was before the season started – to win the Big Ten championship game and be conference champs for the first time in a long time. While Michigan doesn’t control it’s own destiny, it’s November 14th and Michigan can still win the B1G with help, bowl eligibility is a given and this team is now shooting for a ten win season.
How about that defensive performance? That was a Michigan defense! Some people are dubbing it the “Mattison Miracle”. The chart below is from that same mgoblog thread:
|2011 Avg.||2011 Rank||2010 Avg.||2010 Rank|
Never in a million. Never would I have thought this defense had the talent or wherewithal to improve to a “Michigan defense”, a phrase that is so commonly used nowadays by a coaching staff that knows it’s meaning.
Let’s see what this box score is talking about:
MICH ILL FIRST DOWNS................... 14 15 Rushing..................... 8 6 Passing..................... 6 8 Penalty..................... 0 1 NET YARDS RUSHING............. 223 37 Rushing Attempts............ 48 33 Average Per Rush............ 4.6 1.1 Rushing Touchdowns.......... 3 2 Yards Gained Rushing........ 273 105 Yards Lost Rushing.......... 50 68 NET YARDS PASSING............. 139 177 Completions-Attempts-Int.... 8-15-1 17-34-1 Average Per Attempt......... 9.3 5.2 Average Per Completion...... 17.4 10.4 Passing Touchdowns.......... 1 0 TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS........... 362 214 Total offense plays......... 63 67 Average Gain Per Play....... 5.7 3.2 Fumbles: Number-Lost.......... 3-2 3-2 Penalties: Number-Yards....... 4-29 4-25 PUNTS-YARDS................... 4-137 9-374 Average Yards Per Punt...... 34.2 41.6 Net Yards Per Punt.......... 32.2 34.7
How about holding Illinois to 37 total yards rushing and 1.1 average yards per rush attempt? That’s a Michigan Defense. Michigan outgained Illinois 362 to 214. That’s significant. Illinois simply could not move the ball on this defense, specifically the front four. Ryan Van Bergen was tremendous and rightfully earned himself a Big Ten co-Defensive player of the week award.
JT Floyd. JT gets verbally abused by most Michigan fans – as his tackling has been poor and he is most known for giving receivers ginormous 10-15 yard cushions prior to the snap. Floyd played a hell of a game. JT showed two things yesterday, (1) that he, at this point in the season and his career, can run and not get beat deep and (2) that he has the speed and quickness to break on the ball and make a big play. His interception was crucial as Illinois had an opportunity around mid field to pull within either three or seven points of Michigan.
Fitz Toussaint. Fitz seriously has the potential to be Michigan’s next great back. He possesses a skill set that is better than great backs of recent past. I’m saying it now. Fitz, if healthy, can become the best Michigan back in the past decade. He’s faster than Mike Hart and better after contact than Chris Perry. Toussaint also has an incredible skill of a subtle shiftiness about his running style that is evident on most of his runs where he gets beyond the front four / front seven of the defense.
Denard or Devin? This is all I’ll say: Denard gives Michigan the best chance to win. No, he’s not perfect. Yes, he is still smiling. Please, give the kid a mf’in break as he is in his first year of a new offensive system and is still developing as a quarterback. As for Devin, he’ll be a solid quarterback and is currently a solid #2 QB.
I have a request: can we organize the next two football games so every opponent offense play is a 3rd and 1? I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but this defense is incredibly successful on defending these short yardage plays. This has been a trend for the entire season. Michigan’s ability to get a stop on 3rd or 4th and short afforded Michigan the opportunity to beat Notre Dame and remain in the game in both the Michigan State and Iowa losses. I won’t be surprised to see a video mash pulled together of 3rd or 4th and short stops alone.
Jeremy Gallon. Did a fine job seeing the open lanes on the punt returns and attacking them full speed. It’s tough to judge Gallon’s speed. Some plays he looks kind of slow (see his screen reception early in the Purdue game) and some he looks quite fast. He seemed to show some nice speed on both of his returns.
On to Nebraska.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.