The Michigan Wolverines fought valiantly against Alabama in a season opening 41-14 loss. However, they were overwhelmed by the Crimson Tide’s outstanding play in the trenches and their impressive wealth of talent. Alabama out-gained the Wolverines 431-269. That’s obviously not good, but that is standard operating procedure for Alabama’s defense. In last year’s national championship game, the Tide thoroughly dominated a very good LSU team by shutting them out and holding them to 92 yards of total offense. In the two games between Alabama and LSU last year, the Tigers mustered just two field goals and 331 yards of offense – in two games – and LSU thrashed just about everybody else they played last year, including a very good Oregon team in the 2011 Cowboys Classic.
My point is, yes the loss was humbling, but it doesn’t mean that the Wolverines can’t have a tremendous season. “They kicked our butts, but at the end of the day, our overall goal is to go to the Rose Bowl and win the Big Ten Championship,” Jordan Kovacs said after the game. “Oregon lost this game last year and did the same thing.”
The first quarter snowballed out of control for Michigan as they were out-gained 152 yards to 34 and outscored 21-0. If you were like me after that disastrous opening stanza, you were afraid Michigan was going to lose 55-0 and not gain much yardage. However, in the final three quarters, Michigan went toe-to-toe with the Tide and were outscored 21-14 and out-gained 279 yards to 235.
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Criticize Denard Robinson all you want, but he battled in that game. “People want to gang up on Denard,” Hoke said. “They’re making a mistake. Routes being run right — we had some drops that we can’t have, when you look at the flow of your offense. Protection-wise, it was pretty good, pretty solid, but then we got beat a couple of times and either hurried a throw or he had to move out of the pocket and his feet weren’t the way you wanted, his hips and all those things.”
Denard Robinson did struggle at times, but he also completed some pretty big passes against what is most likely the best defense in the country.
In the 2nd quarter he stepped into a deep throw that Jeremy Gallon hauled in for a 71 yard gain. One play later, Robinson scored Michigan’s first TD of the game.
In the 3rd quarter, Robinson hooked up with Devin Gardner for a 44 yard touchdown pass.
In the 4th quarter, with Michigan backed up on their own 7 yard line, Robinson threw a strike to Jeremy Gallon for a 19 yard gain. On that play, Robinson stayed patient in the pocket and threw a beautiful pass.
Michigan was solid on special teams. Will Hagerup was booming his punts, including a Cowboys Classic record 62 yarder. Matt Wile was strong on kickoffs and Dennis Norfleeet looked explosive returning kicks. The Wolverines did however, get flagged for blocking from behind three times in the return game.
One of the most disconcerting things in the Alabama game was the abundance of missed tackles. “A year ago, we were a pretty good tackling team. We’re going to tackle more in practice,” Brady Hoke said on Monday.”We’ll tackle a decent amount this week. The only way I know to get better at anything is to do it.”
The really bad news coming out of the game was losing sophomore corner Blake Countess to a season ending knee injury. Brady Hoke said on Monday that Courtney Avery will take over the starting job. Raymon Taylor and Terry Richardson will see increased playing time as a result of Countess’ injury.
Watching the film from this game won’t be an enjoyable experience, but there are lessons to be learned and the team will move forward. “It was a tough loss. It was a deflating loss,” Jordan Kovacs explained in the postgame presser. “It should sting, but at the end of the day, you can’t let Alabama beat you twice. You have to learn from it. Watch the film and make your corrections to get ready for Air Force next week.”
The bottom line is, Michigan Football will be ok. There are 11 games left on the schedule and this is a focused and determined group. They were overpowered by Alabama’s superior roster, but they won’t run into another team like that during the regular season. They took a knockout punch from the Tide in the first quarter, but refused to stay down. “Our guys were into the game,” Hoke said on Monday. “Never one time did I see the guys who were out there not being into the game, which is a good sign. Believe me, I’ve been on other teams where you look and they’re not really excited about being there. These guys were excited throughout the four quarters of the football game.”