The Little Brown Jug Will Stay….

Coming in to last weekend there were more questions than answers for the Michigan football team.  Which team would show up?  The team that outplayed then ranked Notre Dame, or the team that looked to lose in consecutive weeks to Akron and Uconn only to pull it out at the end.  One thing was for certain, we were playing at the level of our competition and that would have to change or it was going to be another long game.

For the most part the team answered the bell and the game was never really close.  Solid drives on offense and mostly stingy defense were the order of the day.  By half time, almost everyone in the stadium was comfortable that we were looking at a win, but many questions remained.

On the offensive side of the ball, the big news story seemed to be that Devin Funchess moved to WR.  Never a particularly good blocker and with great speed and size, this was the right move at the right time.  Teams have trouble defending him because of this, and he fit into the scheme well.  The offensive line was better, but not yet stellar, and best of all the game was turnover free. 

On the defensive side of the ball, we were able to get more pressure on the quarterback, but that pressure wasn’t disciplined enough.  The rush technique was definitely more effective, but all too often there were running lanes for the Quarterback and by the second half, the Quarterback draw mixed in with play-action passes to their version of Funchess (Big, tall receiver with speed) started to show some potential attack points for our later opponents.  Blake Countess did come up with a 72 yard pick-6 interception late in the 4th quarter and Jibreel Black had a forced fumble early in the day to account for the 2 forced turnovers.

Jibreel Black forces a fumble on the first Minnesota drive of the day.

Jibreel Black forces a fumble on the first Minnesota drive of the day.

Blake Countess returns an interception for a touchdown late in the 4th.

Blake Countess returns an interception for a touchdown late in the 4th.

Special teams was very clean outside of the initial kickoff (another kick out of bounds?).  Better yet of course was no turnovers and only two penalties on the day for 10 yards.  Michigan punted 3 times with a 51.7 yard average.  All in all a very solid performance by the team.

I felt the team came in focused in spite of the Homecoming festivities and put forth a very workman like effort to carry us to the win. 

So, the two big areas of concern for me were pocket contain and handling the big receiver.  Rushing the passer and getting to the quarterback is great, but you can’t leave him running lanes.  This will become even more important when we play Northwestern and then Ohio State.  We must close down the pocket, contain on the edges and make sure that we don’t leave running lanes up the middle that can be exploited.  Here are a couple of pictures that show what I’m talking about.

Mitch Leidner with a lot of room on one of his runs.  He finished with 76 yards gained.

Mitch Leidner with a lot of room on one of his runs. He finished with 76 yards gained.

Lots of room up the Middle as Leidner runs again.

Lots of room up the Middle as Leidner runs again.

Minnesota also showed that we were susceptible to passes to their big man Maxx Williams.  Here are a few examples of the difficulty we had covering him.

Blake Countess can't stop Williams on this TD reception.

Blake Countess can’t stop Williams on this TD reception.

Williams about to grab one over the middle.

Williams about to grab one over the middle.

and Williams open to the outside as well.

and Williams open to the outside as well.

And of course, we should have had a safety on Minnesota on this sequence, but we somehow missed the tackle and let him escape outside.

The play is stuffed inside.

The play is stuffed inside.

Should get the tackle and contain here.

Should get the tackle and contain here.

The tackle is missed and contain is lost.  The play bounces outside for a gain instead of a safety.

The tackle is missed and contain is lost. The play bounces outside for a gain instead of a safety.

Still, all in all it was a very good game and it is really hard to criticize the team effort that was put forth.  I just hope they get to Happy Valley prepared to put the wood to Penn State.

Here are some more pictures from the game, I hope you enjoy them!  As always your comments and encouragement are welcomed and appreciated.  You can comment here or just mention @jfk81 on twitter.

I don't normally take many shots of the band, cheerleaders or in this case Baton Twirlers.   But it's hard to deny the winged top is awesome.

I don’t normally take many shots of the band, cheerleaders or in this case Baton Twirlers. But it’s hard to deny the winged top is awesome.

Taylor Lewan was the first one under the banner!

Taylor Lewan was the first one under the banner!

Fitz with a good cut off the block by Schofield.

Fitz with a good cut off the block by Schofield.

Devin scrambles for a gain while Gallon gets a noogie from the defender.

Devin scrambles for a gain while Gallon gets a noogie from the defender.

Funchess goes up to make the grab while Dileo gets interfered with.

Funchess goes up to make the grab while Dileo gets interfered with.

The flag comes in, but it doesn't matter as Funchess breaks the tackle to go in for the score.

The flag comes in, but it doesn’t matter as Funchess breaks the tackle to go in for the score.

Chesson gets in on the action with a nice catch of his own.

Chesson gets in on the action with a nice catch of his own.

You thought I forgot about Derrick Green didn't you.  He finds a nice hole here and punches it in.

You thought I forgot about Derrick Green didn’t you. He finds a nice hole here and punches it in.

Derrick, follow your lead blocker.  Kerridge has a hole for you if you follow him.

Derrick, follow your lead blocker. Kerridge has a hole for you if you follow him.

1 of 2:  When you're rushing the passer, if it's too easy, guess screen!

1 of 2: When you’re rushing the passer, if it’s too easy, guess screen!

2 of 2:  Future teams will see this develop and take advantage

2 of 2: Future teams will see this develop and take advantage

Dileo is our Wes Welker...finding the soft spot in the zone.

Dileo is our Wes Welker…finding the soft spot in the zone.

I don't think we passed out of this triple stack formation, even though we lined up in it and motioned to it....

I don’t think we passed out of this triple stack formation, even though we lined up in it and motioned to it….

but Toussaint did run one in off the formation by running away from the receiver stack.

but Toussaint did run one in off the formation by running away from the receiver stack.

Funchess catches one downfield between defenders.

Funchess catches one downfield between defenders.

and then he hauls this one in going to the corner ....

and then he hauls this one in going to the corner ….

setting up this TD run by Gardner around the right end.

setting up this TD run by Gardner around the right end.

The final damage and a shot on the big screen of the Little Brown Jug.

The final damage and a shot on the big screen of the Little Brown Jug.

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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