I wanted to believe.
Like many of you, I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that Michigan was "back." That we'd turned a corner. That we had a team this year. But those illusions were "blown up, sir!" when UMass gave their gracious hosts all they could handle in 42-37 Wolverine win Saturday at the Big House.
Watching the game, those of us who bleed blue were faced with a reality many of us sensed in our gut but happily chose to ignore during the past two weeks of Shoelace Fever -- that Michigan has one of best players in the country in QB Denard Robinson, but not much else.
And that's cause for concern. Unfortunately, three years into The Rich Rod Experiment, I still don't see the overall improvement.
Which is why what happened versus UMass, even in victory, was so disappointing. When your starting QB is still in the game on the final play taking a knee against the Big Cupcake on your schedule, something's amiss. When U-M is forced to recover onside kicks in the closing minutes against a team that squeaked out a win versus William & Mary, things aren't improving at the team level.
Yes, I know Michigan has a young defense. And I never expected to see something remotely on par with 'Bama wearing Maize and Blue this season. However, since we're talking about a young defense for the winningest program in college football history, for a team that hasn't had a sub-Top 20 recruiting class in decades, I thought the "young defense" lament was relative to a defense that would be able to lead U-M to a Big 10 title. I didn't think the measuring stick was to a defense that often looks like it has never played organized football before.
Go ahead, slam me in the comments: "Yost, you're being too harsh." "Yost, we knew it was gonna take time." "Yost, you're an extremely handsome, handsome man but you're overreacting...however you're still an extremely handsome man."
at home in Amherst in front of 10,072 people -- than the Minutemen gained on the road in the Big House playing the University of Michigan in front of a hostile crowd of 110,000. Hey, I guess maybe William & Mary's 'D' isn't as young as Michigan's. Or maybe W&M recruits better players. After Saturday, 1-AA schools are probably lining up to play U-M in A2!
Second, we don't have a kicking game. Not 'we have a bad kicking game' but rather we don't have a kicking game. If the Wolverines hadn't gotten the TD and had Michigan been forced to go for a game-tying FG in the final seconds of the ND game, do any of you have any confidence we could have kicked a 40 yarder to tie it? Okay, while 40 yards isn't exactly a monster kick in major college football, it's no gimme. So what about 35 yards? Would you have been confident then? How 'bout 30? 25? That I probably haven't reached your "confident zone" at 25 yards, for a school such as Michigan, is just as disgraceful as the defense. Many high school teams have a better kicking game.
So what are we left with? An offense. Or more specifically, a very special QB and a pretty decent O line. Until UMass, Michigan's RBs were averaging just over 3 yards per carry. Yes, runners not named Robinson gained 181 of U-M rushing yardage last Saturday but, again, that was UMass. That's why you schedule a team next playing something called Stony Brook on the road this weekend -- so that anybody with a fucking winged helmet can run wild.
Look, I hope I'm wrong. I hope we're able to simply outscore everybody (because we can't stop anybody and God help us if a game comes down to a last second FG). But I suddenly have that queasy 2009 feeling -- a couple early thrilling wins that masked bigger and deeper problems.
Did I mention I hope I'm wrong?
Maybe UMass was a wake-up call. But I can't stop thinking it was a realization.
|"I think we're gonna need a bigger defense."|
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:
Maize N Brew Dave: They are who we thought they were.
Brian at MGoBlog: Parachute check!
Gerd at The OZone: Michigan Mondays (folks, yes, it's a Buckeye site but if you don't already, you must make Gerd's column a weekly read. Great stuff!)