Under The Lights II

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It was a beautiful night for a football game.  Ok, it was a little cloudy, and pretty humid with barely a whisper of a breeze, but in the end, I won’t remember that at all.   I’ll remember that I was in The Big House for the largest crowd on record (115,109) at the last home game between Michigan and Notre Dame, and that Michigan was victorious 40-31.  It was a game worthy of the end of a rivalry.

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This game was an event from start to finish.  I took over 700 pictures at the game, and I think I’ve managed to pare it down to 51 that I will post with a few holdovers for next week.  I mean, we had the Tom Harmon Jersey, a series of flyovers from the Black Diamond group, the whole UTL2 setup and show and that doesn’t even include the game.  I didn’t actually get pictures at half time.  I was having trouble getting the normal clear pictures I shoot and was struggling with the light conditions.  I apologize in advance for some less than clear shots including a few that I just felt I needed to post anyways.  I certainly recognize I’m going to have to work on my photography skills for the next time.

For the most part I’m going to hold off on the non-football pictures until the end, but don’t forget to scroll down and see them.  There are some really nice ones there!  We do have the last time that Devin Gardner wore his #12 jersey, and the first time he wore his #98.  That changeover reminded me of a line in the movie Air Force One.  “Liberty Two Four is changing call signs – Liberty Two Four is now Air Force One!”, to cheers from the crowd.  Well, @dg1two changed to @qu9rter8ack and the Big House cheered!  Mark Harmon was there to accept the honor for his dad.  It was all pretty awesome.

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Devin Gardner appears in warmups with the #12 Jersey on for the last time.

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And here he is in his new #98 jersey!

Let’s break down the game the way I saw it.  First of all, let’s talk about the offense.  I thought the offensive game plan was really pretty conservative.  A good mix of pass and run, but there really wasn’t much that we didn’t run against Central.  ND should have been able to game plan for everything that was there.  Holes in the line were hard to come by and they closed quickly.  There was virtually nothing up the middle at all, so most of our yards gained were from the tackles out.  We didn’t rack up an enormous amount of yardage, but I think the running game was effective enough to allow for the play action passing game to work.  Still, Devin didn’t have a lot of time.  Throws had to get out quick or bad things happened.  There were a couple of scary decisions by Devin, and of course, the one in the second half that was a big momentum swing was the sack turned safety turned interception for a TD.  The good news is we survived it and went on to win the game.  I believe that play could have been a negative turning point for this team, but they overcame.  I would really like to see something in the play calling to help the offensive line.  A screen pass or a draw play.  Heck we used to run the silly bubble screen to death and we didn’t even see it once.  It would be great to do something that would give the defensive line something to think about rather than a mad push to the quarterback.

Devin completes the pass, but gets hit as soon as he throws the ball.

Devin completes the pass, but gets hit as soon as he throws the ball.

Here's a play-action pass, but I'd like to see Fitz get on one of the linemen quicker (only 6 to block 6).

Here’s a play-action pass, but I’d like to see Fitz get on one of the linemen quicker (only 6 to block 6).

It's the reverse, you can see Gardner out on the lead block.

It’s the reverse, you can see Gardner out on the lead block.

Gallon still moving around the end, Gardner still blocking

Gallon still moving around the end, Gardner still blocking

The front 5.  Some important experience for the 3 in the middle!

The front 5. Some important experience for the 3 in the middle!

It's a good run, but Toussaint keeps looking for holes all the way out to the outside as you can see in the next 3 pictures.

It’s a good run, but Toussaint keeps looking for holes all the way out to the outside as you can see in the next 3 pictures.

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I can't leave out these three photos of Gallon's catch, even if they are a little blurry.

I can’t leave out these three photos of Gallon’s catch, even if they are a little blurry.

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Fitz finds a hole to run through!

Fitz finds a hole to run through!

Late in the game, this swing pass found Fitz all alone!

Late in the game, this swing pass found Fitz all alone!

Funchess with a nice grab!

Funchess with a nice grab!

Gardner goes wide on a rush, and I think the entire ND coaching staff is on the field.  What?

Gardner goes wide on a rush, and I think the entire ND coaching staff is on the field. What?

Gardner got crushed, but he got the TD pass off to Dileo just in time!

Gardner got crushed, but he got the TD pass off to Dileo just in time!

On the defensive side of the ball, we gave up pass completions but never got beat with the homerun ball.  I count this as a success.   There was some grumbling from those around me in the stands that we were letting up too many yards via the pass, but honestly, it was a pleasant change to see 3 guys hitting just about every receiver and not having receivers just flat out run free on us.  The secondary has done a great job of keeping things in front of them and I for one am thankful for that.  Our run defense held Notre Dame in check and I think our linebackers and defensive backs did a great job of filling holes, containing and bringing guys down.  Holding ND to just 96 yards rushing is awesome.  Of course there is room for improvement here too.  Our front 4 really didn’t manage to get a lot of pressure on Rees.  With only 1 sack on the day, ND gave Rees plenty of time to throw the ball, and given time he was going to hit open, or less than open receivers.  For the remainder of our games we really need to find ways to get more pressure on the quarterback and I think that will be a focus this week.

Not unusual to see two linebackers stuffing the run in the hole!

Not unusual to see two linebackers stuffing the run in the hole!

Desmond Morgan checks in with Section 9 before this play.

Desmond Morgan checks in with Section 9 before this play.

Typical bracketing of the receiver.  He caught it, but got hit by 3 Wolverines

Typical bracketing of the receiver. He caught it, but got hit by 3 Wolverines

Unfortunately, this tipped pass ended up in the hands of a ND receiver for a TD.

Unfortunately, this tipped pass ended up in the hands of a ND receiver for a TD.

Frank Clark elevates to disrupt this Rees pass that fell incomplete.

Frank Clark elevates to disrupt this Rees pass that fell incomplete.

Brennen Beyer turning this play back inside.  Nice contain.

Brennen Beyer turning this play back inside. Nice contain.

Close coverage by Ramon Taylor.

Close coverage by Ramon Taylor.

Big Tightends may still give us trouble....

Big Tightends may still give us trouble….

On special teams, things were rolling along just fine…until they weren’t.  In the second half, Matt Wile just had a couple of bad kicks in a row and they were at times when we were trying to keep the game out of reach.  One punt off the side of his foot, and a kickoff that went out of bounds.  Both were painful and caused more pressure on the defense than we needed to see.  Matt has been extremely reliable, and I was wondering if he didn’t have an injury we didn’t know about to have two bad kicks in a row.  Hopefully they were just flukes.  Everything else looked exceptionally solid again.

Unlike in week 1, penalties were a problem in this game.  Back to back holding calls took us out of a drive, and numerous other penalties just seemed to keep putting us in the hole, or let ND out of them.  Something tells me that there will be additional focus on the penalty yardage in practice this week also.

Overall,  you have to give these team a lot of credit for how they played this game.   They were solid and steady and just kept on perservering through the adversity (some of it admittedly self inflicted) and found a way to put a big W on the board.  This next week hopefully we can get some people healthy and put another W on the board against Akron.   I’m not going to be there this week, but hope you all will make Section 9 proud.  See you next week.

An assortment of pictures…. enjoy!  Don’t be afraid to comment and let me know what you like!

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Wolverines Kickoff 2013

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Welcome back everyone!  It was a glorious day in the Big House as the Wolverines started the season with a bang, or better yet a punt block returned for a touchdown and never looked back despite a few mistakes early in the day.  On the whole the team looked totally in control in their first game on the field of play, even if it was against an overmatched opponent.

Central Michigan could only manage 3 field goals despite drives that started at the Michigan 6 and 29 after interceptions thrown by Devin Gardner.  The defense stepped up and looked solid after these turnovers and I’m looking forward to a true test of the defense next week as we measure ourselves up to the Irish.

Although I think the Wolverines ended up looking pretty good in just about every facet of the game, it was not without a few early jitters.  On the first possession for Central, Blake Countess looked a little rusty after being out all of last year with a torn ACL.  The first play went his way for 17 yards and then a pass that was thrown short to his side missed a wide open receiver.  Here are a few pictures of what I saw from Section 9.

In this series, Countess is off balance on the break, then overruns and misses the tackle.

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Just a few plays later he gets sucked inside and the receiver on the outside is all alone. Fortunately a poor throw from the CMU quarterback left this incomplete rather than as a touchdown pass.

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Devin Gardner also started out a little rusty.  He threw an interception at his own 6 yard line after staring down his receiver, and then later threw up a classic Denard Robinson heave that Jeremy Gallon couldn’t catch up to and the defender, who was deep all the way, easily intercepted.  On the ground Devin was definitely at home and he shook off his early passing cobwebs to go 10-15 for 162 yards and 1 TD.  In this next picture he carries the ball in for a TD on a nice run.

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Dileo caught this pass coming across the middle as he got lost in the defense.  It was a good gain, but I wish he had Norfleet’s speed!

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Overall, the offense was very solid and the running game racked up 252 yards with several gains of more than 20 yards.  The offensive line seemed to open holes at will and was able to protect Gardner as well in passing situations. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I came out of this game feeling much better about the state of the offensive line, especially in the run game.  Here Norfleet has a nice run on the reverse with some great line blocking and a nice lead block by Gardner.

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Fitz Toussaint looked healthy, and he ran well early in traffic, although I felt like he got tentative later (see the things to work on).

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Even De’Veon Smith got in the action late in the game with this carry.

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On defense the line also looked solid and the holes seemed to always be filled by a linebacker to stuff the run.  Frank Clark managed to attract a lot of attention, allowing others to get free.  Central did manage to keep him off the board as far as tackles and sacks go, but his presence was definitely felt.  Desmond Morgan led the day in tackles including filling the hole on this play to stuff Tipton right in the hole.

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Here Frank Clark gets to the QB, while Quinton Washington gets a hand up to disrupt the pass.

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Special teams were solid all around starting with blocking the punt and returning it for a TD.  Norfleet had a close call with a punt that he decided to try to field as it was bounding past him headed for the coffin corner.  One of his teammates covered the ball and kept his miscue from becoming another scoring opportunity for the Chippewas.  Gibbons set the record for consecutive XP’s made at over 100, while Matt Wile averaged 64.6 yards per kickoff and Kenny Allen had 1 punt of 51 yards.   There were no obvious blocking issues or coverage issues on the kicks.  All in all a very solid performance.  And here’s the final scoreboard picture.

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I’m looking forward to next week and we’ll really set the tone for the rest of the season as we experience Under The Lights 2 against the Irish.  Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of these pictures, and be sure to share this website with your friends!

The new student seating plan sure seemed to work:

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Did we get an inch more? Or, an inch less?

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New Stadium Features:

This is the new videoboard out in front of the stadium.  It’s awesome!DSC_0169a_491

The Columns under the stands on the west side are nicely decorated with pictures like this one of Desmond Howard.  Watch for more shots to come!

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Also under the stands on the west side are several of these displays recognizing Michigan’s National Championships.

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Strange plays caught on film:

So on this play, it looks to me like Galleon should have been ruled down.  What do you think?DSC_0332a_506

On this play a CMU helmet came flying out of the pile, #47 heads to dive on it until he realizes it’s a helmet.  Wait, is Denard on the field? There’s a shoe left behind as well!

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Halftime:

Bond, James Bond, 007 made an appearance…..DSC_0425a_509

and then left the stadium via jetpack.

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Things to work on:

Shane Morris must have been a little nervous his first few plays.  On this throw he was completely off balance and the ball landed at the feet of the unseen receiver.DSC_0512a_512

A few plays later, he completes this pass, but looking at his feet, it was totally an arm throw.  He’ll need to work on the footwork.

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While Fitz looked good early, this is the Fitz we saw last year.  He takes the ball from Gardner and he’s flat footed.  He should be accelerating towards the hole, not standing there.  He’s such a different back when he runs aggressively.

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