Good news and bad news. Everybody knew that we would beat Air Force and we did—that’s the good news. However, nobody imagined that it would be so difficult, but it was—and that’s the bad news. Brady Hoke said, “It was great to win the football game. Sometimes they’re not very pretty — this would be one — but you’ve got to give Air Force a lot of credit.” He was absolutely correct. Air Force is a good team and they deserve a great deal of credit and this was definitely not pretty.
In a word, the transition from Alabama’s could-play-in-the-NFL-any-day-all-day-long, super talented athletes to Air Force’s high-pressure triple-option was ugly. It was ugly and difficult. The guys on the defense said they completely changed their defense in the past week then again in the fourth quarter of the game. While people were raising the question, “What happened to our defense?” I looked a little closer.
First, we don’t play a lot of teams with triple-option offenses. So this is not familiar for us, and was a difficult adjustment. It’s all in a days work for athletes playing at the level of Michigan, but still difficult is difficult no matter whom you are, where you are, or what you’re trying to do. This game was no exception. So, Michigan deserves a lot of credit as well for finding the way to win.
We definitely feel the loss of Blake Countess—that of course is more bad news. Jake Ryan is a beast—that is great news. The best news of all is that by the end of the fourth quarter, the Michigan defense was exhausted, beleaguered and battered. How is that good news? That’s good news because they did not surrender. There were two vital fourth quarter stops that secured the win for Michigan. They did what they do, bend, but not break, and as a result of that strength of character, we are 1-1 as opposed to 0-2. That strength of character is something for the Michigan faithful to be faithful to. Brady said it best, “The stops at the end by the defense were timely and huge and needed to be there.” And they were.
Denard was electric, and there was no surprise there. It was like Jekyll and Hyde compared to Alabama. “I calmed down a little more,” Denard said. That statement I’m sure will be nominated for the understatement of the year. On another note, for the most part his passing was adequate. There was one interception at a key moment that changed the momentum of the game at the closing of the first half. Despite his electric runs, this is a lingering concern for all of us. Bottom line, it is what it is. Just like he threw the interception at a bad time late in the first half, he came out in the opening drive of the second half and lit Air Force up and scored quickly. That is just who Denard Robinson is, and what Denard Robinson does. So there’s only one solution: embrace the good, and brace for the bad. Clearly, he is becoming more consistent though, and that is good news.
The bad news is Fitzgerald Toussaint didn’t get many more yards rushing in this game than he did in the Cowboy Classic, and he wasn’t even in Arlington. He rushed 8 times for 7 yards. I’m not sure what is going on with him. Historically, he has been mercurial. He’s had great games, and not so great games, and this one of the latter. What’s really scary about this is that it puts the pressure to run the ball on Denard. That is a prescription for an injury and tragedy. So this has to be fixed, immediately, and I’m sure the Michigan coaches will fix it—immediately. It may be an offensive line related problem. Whatever it is, Toussaint is a threat, he keeps opposing defenses honest and this problem will resolve itself.
Devin Funchess is not good news—he’s GREAT NEWS. The kid is spectacular. He’s tall, super athletic and smart. The future is bright—very bright. Devin Gardner, who was the recipient of most of Denard’s passes, is also some GREAT NEWS. So we have great receivers—now if Denard’s passing continues to improve we’re good. However, like Toussaint’s performances, Denard’s passing has historically vacillated between great and horrible, so we can’t expect a great receiving core to shore up what we’re missing in running backs. Those are all details that Hoke and company will address.
“We are a work in progress,” Brady Hoke said. The operative word is progress. Brady Hoke’s teams have been the embodiment of progress. What we, the Wolverine Nation need to take from this is this: “One game at a time.” Bo Schembechler used to say, “You get me 3-and-½ yards on each offensive play, and I will get you to Pasadena every year.” Bo was right. If you stay focused and you do what you need to do in the moment, the future will take care of itself. As alumni, fans, and a wild wolverine living underneath Schembechler hall, our collective focus needs to be on supporting our team through their growth and evolution, and not getting caught up in the “coulda-woulda-shoulda’s”, because we know that this is Michigan, and those who stay will be champions. HAIL!
Wilbert the Wolverine