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Posted on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Grade the Wolverines: Rate Michigan's performance against Nebraska

By Rich Rezler

Here's your chance to weigh in on the Michigan football team's 45-17 win against Nebraska on Saturday. Grade the Wolverines on offense, defense, special teams, coaching and overall:


Touchdowns were so frequent they came in pairs - two passing for Denard Robinson, two rushing for Robinson and two rushing for Fitz Toussaint. Robinson was an efficient 11-of-18 passing with one interception on a tipped pass and rushed 23 times for 83 yards. Toussaint was a workhorse, gaining 138 yards on 29 carries. The Wolverines finished with 418 yards of total offense, 24 first downs and one turnover. Michigan possessed the ball for 41:13 compared to Nebraska’s 18:39.


Robinson won the battle of dual-threat quarterbacks by nearly 100 yards, with Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez throwing for 122 yards (on 9-of-23 passing) and rushing for 49 yards. More impressively, the Michigan defense took Rex Burkhead - the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher - out of the game. He finished with 36 yards on 10 carries. Safety Jordan Kovacs led the defense with seven solo tackles and a sack. The Cornhuskers finished with 260 yards of total offense, 11 first downs and three turnovers.


Brendan Gibbons split a pair of field goal attempts - hitting a 42-yarder into the wind - and was 6-of-6 on point-after kicks. Holder Drew Dileo picked up a first down on a fake field goal that led to a touchdown. Will Hagerup averaged 36.8 yards on four punts. The return game was negligible besides a 32-yard return by Martavious Odoms.


Sold in all aspects. Al Borges’ offense rolled up 45 points on Nebraska without any razzle-dazzle (backup QB Devin Gardner didn’t see the field until it was time for a backup QB) and Greg Mattison’s defense proved once again it’s for real. Notable: Brady Hoke's streak of not wearing long sleeves continues.


The inevitable chant started with six minutes left in the game: “Beat Ohio.” But fans should take a moment to appreciate the biggest win of the brief Brady Hoke era. Michigan manhandled a good Nebraska team and gave itself an outside shot at a BCS bowl game appearance.

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craig snowgold

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Still need work in the red zone, but gotta give "A". Stepped up big against big good team in pressure game!


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

For all the haters out there, does this win count as a signature win?


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

Hail YES!!!!!!


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

Twice in a row, Michigan's D bit on the same running play and lost. But after that- everyone saw what I did: a nearly perfect defensive performance. I especially liked ESPN's cutting to shots of Greg Mattison on the sidelines. You could see he was full of confidence as he signaled calls to his unit. OTH: the offense is still stuttering a bit. Repeated attempts to drive through Nebraska's front defense were stifled. Maybe Borges just thought that he had to use those pile-driver runs to tire Nebraska and keep them committed to run coverage. Who knows? Funny thing about Denard is: everyone is remarking that he's slower this year. But his scoring as a QB and as leader of the offense is still right up there! He's still just a junior, so I'm guessing he'll be improving still more next season. I can smell victory for The Victors now. A decisive win, no doubt about that! As Mr. Rezler points out: now Michigan even has a chance of getting an at-large BCS bowl game. Those who pay attention to Michigan football history may be enjoying a bonus: Nebraska people openly talk about their 1962 win (over the worst UM team to that time) as their turning point toward football prominence. Yet - when they came to Ann Arbor today, they proved what many have said: Nebraska is a pretender, dependent on weak schedules and unable (at this point) to handle real Big 10 teams. How's that for a "turning point?"

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

45 points = stuttering a bit? 40 minutes T.o.P. = stuttering a bit? My car ought stutter so well. GN&GL


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:39 a.m.

A fair and reasonable assessment. I wondered about the repeated runs up the middle that didn't seem to work. But then I remember one unescapable fact for me: compared to Borges I'm an offense idiot. I'm prepared to trust Borges knows what he's doing. Today's 45 tells me he's got at least some idea what he's doing.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

Thank you Mr. Borges. You put Denard in an offense were he fits. Denard's smiling again. We all our too.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

What a breath of fresh air after the stench of the RichRod years-this staff is so good-kudos to Brady, Al & Greg-and the position coaches, who usually remain's nice to be proud of UM football again...


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

Er . . .re headline - thought we played NEBRASKA today?


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

Wow! Who'd a thunk? This team is light years ahead of where I thought they were going to be this season, and I thought they would be better than last year. But a dominating BLOWOUT of a very good Nebraska team? Incredible. And for all of those saying the offense has gotten worse, I say, "Really?" Michigan just scored 45 points against one of the best teams we've faced in four years! That was big time offense (and defense) against a BIG TIME opponent. Excellence in all phases! Go Blue!!!!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

@Don: Glad to reply! 1) You know as much about football as anyone else on this board. All of those who talk like they have a Ph.D. in College Football seldom know what they are talking about. 2) Yeah, I trust Borges' judgment over that of the slappies. There are times that I've questioned his play calling, but it is clear to me that his scheme has both protected Denard and has diversified the attack, making it more difficult to stop. 3) Yeah, a wild game at Oregon last night. And you are correct--USC showed that a pro-style offense is just as effective as a spread. USC ought to have put that game away with its last drive but for the fumble. 4) Size and speed? You speak heresy, Don!! Smurfball is the way to go!! [sarcasm] 5) Griffin is indeed something else. What a game THAT was!! (Yeah, I was up waaaaay too late last night watching football). 6) What a weekend in college football. Okie State. Oregon. Clemson. OU. All one-loss teams with BCS hopes that crashed and burned. Gotta love college football. Nothing like it. The NFL cannot come close. GN&GL


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:53 a.m.

@ERMG -- thanks for the response. "It is becoming abundantly clear to me that Denard is a better passer when in the pocket." Gasp ... that's ... that's ... heresy! That implies that maybe ... just maybe ... Borges isn't a complete idiot! On a somewhat related note ... how about USC over Oregon? Yes, game became close near the end. But USC showed what speed and a pro-set QB can do. USC's defense impressive ... their D-line disrupting Oregon's play progression. Gosh ... golly gee and holy cow ... could it be that sizeable and athletic defensive linemen can make a difference? Mattison, what do you think? Les Miles? And in a totally unrelated note ... Robert Griffin III at Baylor ... what's not to like about that kid? Great QB ... great poise on and off the field.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:48 a.m.

@Don, You are exactly correct, I think, in that there is no such thing as THE spread. We run a spread that is a hybrid of what we did last year. That said, 1) It is clear that Borges does not want Denard to be his featured back, probably for what would seem to be obvious reasons: a) reduce the defense's ability to key on only him, and b) reduce his chance for injury. The result has been an offense that is just as potent as last year in ppg and one where it is impossible to key solely on Denard. Clearly Nebraska today decided to try to stop Fitz. That worked for a while, but it gave Denard room to run. And as the disparity in TOP grew, the Nebraska D got tired, and Fitz got his yards. 2) It is becoming abundantly clear to me that Denard is a better passer when in the pocket. When he rolls out he does not get his feet underneath him the way he ought in order to deliver an accurate pass. This is mechanics that can be addressed in the off season. But all of the slappies who insist on rolling him out to pass are not watching what he does when he rolls out. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

@ERMG -- call me an old coot ... there's a part of me that still expects people to employ at least a LITTLE reason in their thinking. My question was actually pretty sincere ... what exactly is "the spread" nowadays? It seems offenses are morphing into each other and there's a lot of overlap. I'm watching the USC-Oregon game right now and I'm not seeing a lot of read option runs. There's a lot of hand-offs to LaMichael James going mostly off-tackle, and a fair amount of play action passes. I didn't see a lot of four wide-out formations in today's Michigan game. I saw Denard in shotgun, but Borges has been doing that all year. Robinson ran a fair amount (23 carries), but not with crazy numbers (83 yards). Yes, 2 touchdowns ... but I wonder how much of that was simply Borges finally get through to Robinson -- "If the pass is there, throw it; but if the run is open, go." Denard's passing was better today (11 for 18, 180 yards) ... a nice deep throw and some other throws where Robinson finally (finally!) squared his hips, set his feet and threw to the receiver. Is THAT the spread? Again, if people are going to throw words as veiled criticisms of Borges, all I'd ask is some logic and reason behind it. If it's there, someone please let me know. Maybe I'm asking too much.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

@Don: The RichRod slappies won't give it up. Seems to me that Borges has taken the talent he inherited and has adopted to it. Result: going into today's game, our offense was scoring .5 point per game less than at the same point last year and Denard is not being injured nearly as much as he was last year. Oh, and we are 9-2. In the 2008 season, by contrast, the object of the slappies' man crush adamantly insisted on running a style of offense without the type of talent he needed to run it. Result: disaster. But, inevitably, whatever success Hoke and his coaching staff have, the slappies will ascribe that success to the WCiMFH. GN&GL


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 12:06 a.m.

Okay, stipulate the spread elements was the key. Are you willing to grant Borges credit for being flexible and creative? Oh ... and those Toussaint yards up the middle ... was that "spread?" What exactly is "the spread" to you, anyway? Seriously. Is it just if Denard gets more than 'X' yards then it's somehow "the spread?" I ask because honestly, I watched Rodriguez's spread for three years, and what I saw today didn't look much like it at all.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

AZ: Borges ran the spread. That's why the offense was so great.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

The light is finally at the end of the tunnel. The horror of the R. Rodriguez (the worst coach in Michigan Football history) era is soon coming to a close. These coaches are just plain great!


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

I thought it was already closed?


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

If you think RR was a nightmare- look at Penn State and Ohio State. Now those are what I'd call nightmares. Will the attacks on RR never end?


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

The second half was totally awesome for the Wolverines. I am listening to the radio post game show interviews with some of the defensive players and they feel that they could have done better in this game against NE. It is THAT ATTITUDE that will keep them focused all week and then play hard against the buckeyes and come away with THE WIN! GO BLUE!!!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

"Denard and Touisaant were dominate (sic)" That's right ... nobody else on the offense had anything to do with anything. The offensive line could have sat out every play and it wouldn't have mattered. Koger and the receivers ... ignored by the secondary of Nebraska because they knew it was just Denard and Toussaint. It's team game.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

The offense had a little to do with it. Denard and Touisaant were dominate.