Turns out Alabama is good….really really good. ESPN Gameday, at night, nationally televised, at the Jerry Dome with 90,000+ in attendance (a Cowboy Stadium record for college football). Alabama vs. Michigan, #1 vs. #8, SEC vs. Big 10. Alabama dominated the game from the start. At the end of the game, as chants of SEC, SEC, SEC could be heard from the crowd, Alabama was victorious 41 – 14. Michigan fans were left speechless.
Michigan was beat on every level. Alabama won the battle in the trenches. Their offensive and defensive lines were better. Bama’s defense controlled the game and stopped Denard Robinson from running and passing. Not like Alabama needed it, but Michigan helped the Tide “roll” by committing 8 penalties for 99 yards. Michigan not only lost the game, but also lost key players due to injury that will impact the rest of the season going forward. Not all was bad though. I will point out some highlights and interesting stats later on as well.
Michigan kicked off to Alabama to start the game and forced Alabama to go three and out and punt on their first possession. This gave every Michigan fan watching the game a slight chub and that glimmer of hope that this might actually be possible. Unfortunately everything went downhill from there. At the end of the 1st Quarter, Alabama was leading 21-0 and the game was pretty much over.
Alabama’s defensive line dominated Michigan’s offensive line. They held Michigan to 69 total rush yards. That includes Denard Robinson who only rushed 10 times for 27 yards and 1 touchdown. Robinson only attempted 2 runs in the first half. Alabama’s game plan was to stop Robinson from beating them. Take away his running ability and force him to pass it. Alabama succeeded.
Michigan running back, Fitz Toussaint was suspended for the game, but that probably didn’t make a difference. Backups Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls were ineffective.
You knew that Michigan might be in trouble with their offensive line when before the start of the game, they switched the center and left guard positions. Barnum was the starting center in camp and Mealer was named the starting left guard. At game time, Mealer was moved to Center and Barnum replaced him at left guard. Never a good sign when starting positions on the offensive line are still being juggled around right before the season starts.
To make matters worse, star left tackle Taylor Lewan had to leave the game early with a leg injury and was seen being helped back down the tunnel at the end of the game. He not only is the best offensive lineman on Michigan, but he might be the best player. Luckily, coaches say he is fine and should be good to go this week against Air Force. Michigan can not afford to lose Lewan.
Michigan’s passing offense was not much better. Robinson finished going 11-26 for 200 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Now it wasn’t all Robinson’s fault. The wide receivers dropped balls, ran bad routes, or wrong routes all together and were out-physicalled by Bama’s corners.
Roy Roundtree came into the season supposedly as the #1 go to receiver. He finished with 2 catches for 12 yards (both catches late in the 4th quarter). He was barely even targeted by Robinson.
Quarterback turned wide receiver, Devin Gardner looked like he has the potential to be a big time receiver, both big and fast, but was pretty much shut down. He finished with 1 catch which turned out to be a 44 yard touchdown. Gardner had 1 drop, another ball wrestled away from his hands that should have been a catch, and looked to run some poor routes. I think he will be good and will cause a mismatch for other teams, but he needs to get more reps and experience.
Jeremy Gallon seemed to be the one receiver that had a good game against Alabama. He finished with 4 catches for 107 yards, getting behind the defense on one play for a 71 yard reception.
Michigan’s defense should also get some of the blame. The defensive line was man-handled by Alabama’s offensive line. They couldn’t stop the run and missed several tackles. The corners were burned for a few big plays too.
Starting corner Blake Countess went down early in the 1st quarter with a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. This is a huge hit for Michigan’s D. He was their best corner and will now be replaced by Courtney Avery. While the coaches say they have all the confidence in Avery, he looked lost against Alabama. Hopefully getting consistent reps now as the starting corner, Avery will be able to step up his game.
The game wasn’t all negative. There were some positives to take away from the game.
Punter, Will Hagerup looked like he is back to his old self after having a poor season last year. He was busy all night and averaged 51.3 yards per punt, securing his job as the starting punter.
Freshman running back/kick returner Dennis Norfleet looked pretty good returning kicks. Michigan had a terrible year last season with kick/punt returns and Norfleet looks like he could be a much needed improvement.
We learned that Russell Bellomy is the backup to Denard Robinson. When Robinson was thought to be injured, Bellomy was the quarterback warming up, not Devin Gardener. Not necessarily a positive, but just interesting as Michigan looks committed to having Gardner play receiver.
This game was an eye opener for Michigan and showed the coaches and team where they need to improve and that they still have work to do. As badly as Michigan was beat, this should not be any indication of how the rest of the season will play out. Michigan’s offense will produce and will put up similar numbers to last season. Alabama is just that good. Michigan is still a good team and Big 10 contender. Denard Robinson is still a dynamic play maker and will be able to run all over opponent’s defenses.
Robinson finished the game with 200 yards and 1 touchdown. In the entire 2011 season, Alabama’s defense did not allow any quarterback to throw over 200 yards. The most yards any quarterback threw against Alabama was 190. By comparison, Denard Robinson was better than any other quarterback Alabama faced last year.
Michigan put up 14 points against Alabama. In the entire 2011 season, only 3 teams scored 14 points or more on Alabama’s defense. Out of the 3 teams, only 1 scored more than 14 points with 21. Michigan’s offense put up more points than pretty much every team Alabama faced last year.
Michigan’s offense had more success against Alabama than LSU did last year in the BCS championship game. In that game, LSU had a total of 92 yards and did not score a single point. Yup, 0 points. I believe LSU only crossed mid field once during the game.
And this one is for you state fans that want to rip on Michigan and Denard Robinson. When State played Alabama in the 2011 Capital One Bowl. State lost 49-7. Cousins finished with 120 yards and 0 touchdowns. The combination of Baker and Bell finished with 27 yards and 0 touchdowns.
Michigan didn’t look good against Alabama, but Alabama tends to do that to most every other team. Although embarrassing, it is not anything to be too concerned about yet. If Michigan looks terrible this week against Air Force, then it’s time to be concerned.
Week 2: Michigan v. Air Force, at Michigan
Air Force comes in running the triple option offense. Air Force has graduated 17 starters, along with removing 5 key contributors from the team before the season. Week 1, Air Force also lost their starting center due to injury.