Tuesday, November 15, 2011
MZone Autopsy Report: Illinois
1. DE-FENSE! It's impossible to overstate the job that Hoke, Mattison and the other coaches have done with Michigan's defense this year. They took - literally - the worst defense in the history of Michigan football (110 in total defense, 108th in scoring, 112th in passing last season) and turned them into - wait for it - the 5th best scoring and 22nd best overall defense in the country.
Think about that. As we tweeted yesterday, in order to give up as many points as it did last season, Michigan would need to average 101 points against them in their remaining two regular season contests and bowl game. It's mind boggling. Okay, now stop weeping with joy and keep reading.
Illinois didn't even make its first foray into Michigan territory until the third quarter! Yes, I'm so emotionally scarred from The Dark Period that I kept waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. But not only didn't it, it was the defense and JT Floyd - JT Floyd! - stepping up when things got a little tight and the Zookers cut the lead to 10 points in the 2nd half.
2. I think going for it on 4th and goal from the one was a mistake. In general, good idea and I love this attitude and mindset from Hoke. But not this time. And my reasoning is simple: math and momentum. On the road, up 14 with about five minutes left in first half, I believe it's more important to be up three scores than the margin being either 17-0 or 21-0. Because when it doesn't work, we're one play away from it being a one-score game.
Again, in general, I like going for it on these types of plays. But not here. And it's not weakness, it's math.
3. JT Floyd. Until Saturday, I always viewed Floyd with suspicion. But he had a monster game. Yes, he may have gotten away with a PI early, however the stop on that play seemed to give him confidence that carried throughout the game.
4. All the consternation about Devin Gardner coming in early on "those packages" and "playing so much" was nullified by his play when called upon last Saturday. Many folks were up in arms about "all" the times Devin entered previous games early on, both with Denard also on the field but sometimes not. But such snaps when the game was still in doubt and not simply hand-offs during 4th quarter mop up duty paid off when Denard was injured in the second half and Devin had to fill in with Illinois making its charge. I think it's fair to say his poise last weekend was a direct result of those previous reps and packages when the games were still undecided.
5. Fitz! This is exactly the running attack Hoke has always alluded to that would take pressure off Denard. Tony Gerdeman at the OZone tweeted that "Denard Robinson has been held to 63 yards rushing or less in 5 of 6 B1G games. That only happened once last year (62, against Illinois.)"
All I say to that is, isn't it nice to have an actual TEAM? When Michigan's chance didn't entirely rest with one player? Yes, his numbers aren't as flashy, but there's no denying that U-M is an infinitely bettter TEAM.
So while Robinson's passing numbers (and accuracy) might be cause for alarm, his rushing stats shouldn't be.