Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Review: Air Force

Final Score - Air Force: 25 Michigan: 31

First of all, it felt very nice to pick up the first win of the season and for Brady Hoke to remain perfect at home, dating back to last season. A lot of people will say that a win against Air Force is really nothing and that this can't mean the Wolverines are back on track. But here is an interesting fact about the Falcons: they have averaged 387 rushing yards through the first two weeks. And yes, that is good for first in the nation.

The Falcons were a very legitimate team to open up the home schedule with. In fact, a lot of people were pointing at this game as the most underrated on Michigan's schedule because of the fact that they played Alabama one week earlier. It took a mighty effort and a near-record breaking performance from Denard Robinson, but the Wolverines pulled off the win and got the weight off their chest.

Michigan

The most encouraging sign I saw on Saturday was Denard looked like he found his rhythym again. As I stated in my Preview and Prediction for Air Force, it was vitally important that Michigan established some sort of a running game, either through Fitz Toussaint or Denard Robinson. Obviously, Toussaint did not have the game most were expecting after coming off of a suspension, but it was more than made up for by Robinson.

On the second play of Michigan's first drive, Denard did what Denard does: run fast. Almost 80 yards to be exact. When that happens, you can safely bet Robinson will be making noise for the rest of the game. And that he did.

On the first play of the second half, Denard ran the ball 58 yards for another touchdown. He looked comfortable and sharp in the running game all afternoon. Another encouraging sign from Robinson was that he did not look at all beaten up from the week before. That was a concern of mine heading into Week 2, but he quickly dismissed any doubt in my mind that he was 100%. At least, he played as though he was at 100%.

Something that maybe deserves a little bit more attention than we initially thought in the off season is the defensive line. They are very undersized and have simply been run all over through the first two weeks. Now, they were going up against two of the best running teams in the nation, but it was pure domination up front. That could prove costly when it comes time to play teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin, who make their money on the ground.

Another concern I'm starting to take notice of is that, in general, the defense is not tackling the way they were a year ago. It is very sloppy. I see a lot of players trying to arm tackle and not wrap up the ball-carrier. Although the team pursuit on the ball has been okay, being able to tackle in the open field is very important to the success of the Michigan defense.

Air Force
The number one objective for Air Force against Michigan was to make Denard pass the ball because of the lack of success he against Alabama through the air. If you take away Robinson's two, long touchdown runs, he remained a key part of the running game, but there wasn't anything else very explosive. For the most part, Air Force kept the damage to a minimum.

However, Denard proved that he could in fact drop back and pass. The Falcons secondary did not look all that sharp against the talented Michigan receivers. In fact, it was a Tight End who led the Wolverines in receiving yards this week -- Devin Funchess. Funchess had 104 yards and got his first career touchdown reception.

At first, I was really considering making the Falcon's number one priority to be running the ball. But I decided, either way, that would happen. Air Force has a triple option attack that gives coaches nightmares. Statistically, they are the best in the nation at putting the ball on the ground. Not much changed against the Wolverines. The difference was the Michigan defense was able to come up with some timely stops throughout the game.

Lesson Of The Game

Michigan is undersized up front, especially on defense, and they need to find a way to make up for the lack of size before Big Ten teams start exploiting the weakness.

There really isn't a true way to make up for size up front other than making the opposing offense not feel completely comfortable running the ball. And the only way to do that is to send in extra pressure throughout the game and keep the offense guessing.

Obviously, that would mean sacrificing coverage at certain times, but it's the run defense that needs the most help right now.

Tyler's Prediction Record: 2-0

Notes: Fitzgerald Toussaint only had 7 yards on 6 carries in his first game of the season. Devin Funchess led the Wolverines in receiving yards and recorded his first career TD reception.

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