Either way, Michigan was embarrassed in primetime on national television. With that said the members of team 133 did not give up, played hard and earned the respect of many Alabama players and fans (Editor’s Note: First-hand account). As Michigan fans, that is not good enough.
Michigan entered the game with a Heisman Trophy candidate in Denard Robinson. He was expected, as usual, to get his fair share of explosive runs. What was unknown was whether he could improve as a passing quarterback. He did show signs of improvement but also showed signs of his play from a year ago with continued deep prayers and lack of understanding defenses. Despite that you have to feel for the senior quarterback. A few early dropped balls shook his confidence while an inept running game allowed Alabama to play complex zone coverage’s which really rattled Robinson. Robinson has been known to be a shaky, over excited starter. Establishing a run game first would have been nice, not just for Robinson, but Gardner also. Receivers were able to get separation a few times however on those plays Robinson threw off of his back foot and missed open targets. He did fire a nice bomb to Jeremy Gallon which resulted in 7 points. He also hit Gardner for a 44 yard score late in the game thanks to a nice route and blown coverage. His best pass of the night is when he was able to step up in the pocket and hit Gallon on a third and long for a 19 yard gain. He showed signs of improvement but also showed that he is not quite where he needs to be.
The offensive line held up well in the passing game only allowing Robinson to get sacked once. He also had time to throw throughout most of the game. Some of that is thanks to nice pass protection but also Alabama’s willingness to drop 7 back in coverage and not bring a lot of heat. With that said, our guys were winning the 1 on 1 matchups. Where the offensive line struggled was the running game. How much of that is on the offensive line is the question, in my opinion. Alabama obviously has a loaded defense that is very physical. However they are also very fast. Running east and west against this team was simply bad game planning. We could have had better success having positive plays attacking the middle of the defense. Also, whether it was Robinson’s fault or not, the zone read was not utilized or not utilized well. It is hard to tell when a zone read is called if the running back continues to get the handoff, however on a number of occasions had Robinson kept the ball he would have been running for large gains. Robinson admitted he made several bad reads, but how much of that comment is him covering for his coach? If he was making the wrong reads, he should have been coached, or at least told to keep it once or twice to keep the defense honest. With Fitzgerald Toussaint missing the game, Robinson had to be the focal point of the running, and he was not. This leads me to believe we entered this game not to win but rather to not get embarrassed. Still, Robinson got beat up and we were still embarrassed.
Offensively, we saw some signs of what we could have. Devin Gardner has the ability to be special at wide receiver. We are learning that Jeremy Gallon is a playmaker whether outside or in the slot. We learned that Denard Robinson should have ample time to complete passes. We saw improved accuracy on Robinson’s part but also saw he has a lot to improve on as well. We also saw that we need Toussaint badly and that Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith cannot carry the load. Whether this was against Alabama or not, this team has a lot of work to do before we gel. Once we do gel, this could be a solid unit.
Will we gel though is up to Al Borges, who in my opinion called a questionable game. Coaches need to know their players. Are our players simply underperforming or is Borges hoping our players respond in the game. Everyone knows Denard Robison has a tough time reading defenses. So why do we continue to run complex route combinations that require certain reads? Robinson was best as a sophomore when he had to be respected as a runner but also was required to make 1 read on passing plays. The slot was and has been underutilized under Borges. We have quick, speedy guys who have the ability to get open, make a man miss, and turn a 5 yard gain into a 15 yard gain. Despite a 100 yard performance from Gallon, he needs to the see the ball in space. We need to get Drew Dileo more involved. We also forced the ball to Gardner early in the game, no matter who was covering him. Was Robinson told to go to Gardner? Did Robinson see potential All American Dee Milliner covering Gardner? Either way, these are things that led me to believe we went down to Dallas to try to keep the game close and get out of the game injury free, and neither happened. Luckily for Michigan, this will be the best team we play all year. Also, our goal of a B1G Championship is still in sight. Despite the loss, which many expected, we should still compete for the B1G.