Michigan gets back to the basics, stifles Vanderbilt
ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN SEPTEMBER 2, 2006 While it wasn’t mid-way through the fourth quarter that the win was secured, most M fans had already seen the things they wanted to see: an undisputed domination of the line of scrimmage . Renewed Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord moved the Blue to a zone-style blocking scheme that seemed effective in creating chances for Mike Hart. And new Defensive Coordinator Ron English’s d line was playing in the Vanderbilt backfield all day.
The day was far from perfect. There were several mistakes that stalled or killed drives: penalties, dropped passes, poor field goal attempts and bad passes to cite a few. And while the Denver Bronco-style blocking scheme freed up Mike Hart for major yardage, Vanderbilt seemed to adjust in the second half and also put a lot of pressure on Chad Henne throughout the game. As pointed out by many of the players during the post game presser, there are many issues to resolve.
Here are the takes on this game:
– 171-9. Say what you want about the opponent, this is still a team that beat Tennessee last year and just missed knocking off Florida in the Swamp. Losing Jay Cutler to the draft was obviously a huge loss, but the Commodores had plenty of skill players. The 171 total yards given up, including 30 coming off of that 30 yard throwback flea flicker that resulted Vandy’s only points, was impressive. To further demonstrate the domination, Michigan allowed just 9 first downs including two by penalty. The Commodores really couldn’t move the ball against the Blue. Here’s how the efforts stack up compared to Michigan last three opening day
Year Team Total Yards First Downs
2005 N. Illinois 411 20
2004 Miami, OH 250 13
2003 C. Michigan 368 20
– Sack Men. Last season through 4 games Michigan had registered just 6 sacks. When Captain LaMarr Woodley and his defense walked off the field Saturday they had equaled that total. M registered a total of 32 sacks the entire season last year and no more than 4 in any one game (Nebraska). While they only gave Woodley credit for two, I had him down for three – they must have given someone else the credit.
– Execution. While M’s defense controlled Vanderbilt, the offense just didn’t deliver. After the opening drive, Michigan failed to put together a solid drive. This is definitely the biggest concern heading into the bulk of the schedule. While it may not be needed for the Chippewas, the Notre Dame Irish won’t give any quarter in a couple weeks.
– Punt-off. Much ballyhooed 2004 recruit Zoltan Mesko assumed the majority of the punting duties in the game, taking 3 of the game’s 4 punts. 2005 Starter Ross Ryan handled kick-offs and one of the punts. Mesko’s first punt sailed high but landed well short and took a huge Michigan roll to boost his stats. He later got into one really good and showed his potential. For my money, I rather have the sure and steady foot of Ross Ryan, but we’ll see how things shake out over the next 2 weeks.
– Hart’s Durability. RB Mike Hart looked great in consistently busting off runs of 6+ yards during the game. But I question why he carried so much of the load, amassing over 31 carries. Couldn’t have Carr and DeBord called Kevin Grady’s number a few more times? The other thing that worries me about Hart is his propensity to twist, turn and stretch for extra yards. I cringed several times after Hart was hit from multiple angles in the middle of the field. They need to limit Hart’s load next game (Carr acknowledged as much in the post game press conference) or Hart needs to work toward the sidelines and consider avoiding such a brutal pounding. The other issue: when Hart is getting pummeled at all kind of strange angles you would think he’d cough up the occasional fumble. The good news there? He hasn’t fumbled in 450 straight carries.
– Sec. 22 Sightings. It’s always interesting to witness the comings and goings in Section 22. Often you’ll see some of the press wander down to the field via 22, and there are always a lot of colorful characters, whether it be old M alumni, players families, recruits, or current M athletes. Here’s some of the beauties from Saturday’s game:
Near the beginning of the game, a man behind me yelled out to woman heading down the aisle with her husband. The man claimed that he recognized the woman, and he called to her by name, and he went on to tell her that they dated when they were students at Michigan…..40 years ago.
We spotted Dr. Willis Patterson, the man who for decades has taught Michigan football freshman how to properly sing ‘The Victors’, the Wolverine fight song. Tip: sing from the diaphragm, not your throat.
Speaking of singing, we happened to have a virtuoso stop right next to K’s and I just as the band started to play the national anthem. The man, probably in his mid-60s, just belted it out like a real pro. People cheered for him when it was over. On the way out of the stadium a man who thought I did the singing congratulated me on the incredible rendition. I simply said “Thank you”.
Keeping with the musical theme, congrats to the Michigan Marching Band for an unforgettable halftime show dedicated exclusively to the music of Led Zeppelin.
– Big Ten Performance.
An impressive perfect record for the Big 10 to start the season, although no one faced a threatening opponent. That’ll change next week with several teams facing tough tests, including Ohio State at Texas, and Penn State at Notre Dame.
– Fire Up for Chips. I had the pleasure to see the Central Michigan vs. Boston College opener on Thursday and while the Chips hung tight with the Eagles, they didn’t show a whole lot that Michigan can’t handle. Coach DeBord’s successor, head coach Brian Kelly made some questionable moves during the game including losing track of downs and going for it on fourth and eight from the CMU 27 and a wild formation at the end of the game that fooled no one, and resulted in a game ending interception.