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Posted on Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Your chance to grade Michigan's performance against Alabama

By Pete Cunningham


Alabama junior wide receiver Kevin Norwood runs the ball past Michigan sophomore linebacker Desmond Morgan in the second half of the Cowboy Classic at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

Melanie Maxwell | Michigan football writer Kyle Meinke graded several Michigan players' individual performances against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, and let's just say the report cards weren't pretty.

But what of the offensive, defensive and special teams' performances as a whole outside of individual performances in the 41-14 loss? We'll provide the facts and figures, you let us know how you think each unit performed on Saturday.


Michigan gained 269 yards on offense, compared to 431 for Alabama, and had 11 first downs. In the 21-0 first quarter, Michigan gained just 34 yards to Alabama's 152. Quarterback Denard Robinson had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and backup Russell Bellomy's only pass attempt was intercepted


Michigan's defense forced a three-and-out on its first series, but Alabama scored on each of its next four possessions on its way to a 31-0 lead. Alabama gained 431 yards on the night, 260 on the ground and 199 through the air.

Special teams

The positive side to getting scored on and having to punt with regularity? Special teams players get a chance to play a lot. Freshman Dennis Norfleet returned eight kicks for a total of 177 yard while punter Will Hagerup averaged 51.3 yards on his six kicks. Brendan Gibbons made both of his extra point attempts.


Coaching is a little less objective in how it may be presented and graded. Some noteable coaching decisions before and during the game include: leaving Fitz Toussaint, Frank Clark and Josh Furman back in Ann Arbor for the game, a lack of designed run plays called for explosive quarterback Denard Robinson, moving backup quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver and giving true freshman Dennis Norfleet handle kickoff duties.


What overall grade does the Michigan football team deserve after dropping a 41-14 loss to the defending national champions?

Pete Cunningham covers sports for



Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

The DR did a GREAT job. Where was his protection? 1] Once he learns how to lead the pass receiver like Namath he will become a Heisman plus.. 2] Where are the defensive ends? 3] Get rid of the spoiled sponsor-promo kids who only want to be on TV and cause penalties. 4] It is ok if the other half of the linesmen learn what pursuit means and get their uniforms a little dirty. Just watch the films - it is pretty obvious who needs to be 2nd string. 5] Can the choir boys at least try to raise their hands to distract the kicker and block the ball?? See...sometimes the big sponsors just don't know everything about teamwork.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

If there was a "game plan" in the "D play calling", after M coaches I'm sure watched hours of Alabama's O line, that "new strategy" certainly proved to work to Alabama's strength. Their six man front pushed M's D line 5 yds "horizontally", as a unit, on every running play. "Their O line skills called for creative thinking....and M did not show that at all.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:32 a.m.

Anyone notice the face mask penalty in the pic? Not that the outcome would have been different at all, so this is not whining as I know full well Michigan was outmatched, but there were several missed calls like this.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : midnight

Hmmmm...Saban isn't a good coach because his players were better? Isn't that part of being a good coach? Recruiting?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:31 a.m.

Saban is above ALL a great recruiter. And he is a defensive minded coach like Hoke. Anyone who says he isn't a great coach is jealous and would say he's a genius if he was their own. I do think Hoke is more like-able, and he is damn good in recruiting too. He is only in his second year as a head coach. Anyone remember Saban at MSU? It took awhile to build that program, even for him. And it will take Hoke the same amount here at U of M. I wanna see these teams meet again in about 4 years. I think it will be a spectacular match up then, truly deserving the "classic" monicker.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Saban has built one hell of a program down there, a program that was suffering before he got there. It takes a good coach to do that. And a huge part of that is being a great recruiter.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

From the looks of it, MSU, ND, and OSU are sure loses. Yes we played a great team last night, but I have no doubt that our team last year would have done a better job. Meinke loves the inane, tired "This will be a better team than last year, but with a worse record" line. I call BS. This is a worse team than last year's, and it will have a worse record.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 7:13 a.m.

You are right. But the defense will improve drastically over the season, barring anymore losses like Countess. That was a HUGE blow to the secondary.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

I'll try to have some faith, but if you put the defensive front aside, you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Without a good defensive front, having a good team is quite difficult.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:27 a.m.

I have to say I already think this years team(defensive front aside) is better than last years team. This was the 1st game is a long season. Have some faith and above all else, patience. Meinke is right. I'd bet my house on it.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

Ohio St fan here. I was really hoping that UM would put up a good fight against Bama last night. The thing that sticks out to me is that I thought the play calling was awful. Borges tried to make Denard a pocket QB and he's obviously not that style of player. I thought they babied him too much and were more worried about him getting hurt than making a play with his legs. His injury problems are well chronicled, but the unique thing about UM is the versatility that Denard has and his ability to create a play when nothing is there. I think Brady Hoke is a good fit at UM, but hopefully he learns a valuable lesson from this game.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:26 a.m.

Thanks, Rich. Agrees on all counts. Although, I do love Denard as a player, I still think passing is just not his thing. He does throw a hell of a long pass here and there, but accuracy just isnt his forte. Speed is.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Even though the offensive line stunk up the field on run plays, they did do a decent job on pass blocking. Mostof the time Denard had time to throw...he just could not hit his targets. Go watch the game again.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

Yes, there are many sad Blue fans today... Spent all that money to go to Dallas to watch a game that... well, you get the idea. However, there are two important bright spots from yesterday: (1) UM's jersey's were very stylish and I'm sure Brandon sold a lot of them. Heck, maybe the 'Bama fans bought 'em to put in their trophy cases. "Hey, boys, look here, I got me-self a "jen-u-in" wolverine!" (2) The Buckeyes WON! In the end, that is what really matters. Seriously, I found the fan's grading of Hoke to be a little too critical. Saying Hoke was "out-coached" by Saben is like saying Eisenhower had a better military mind than Rommel without recognizeing that the allies had unlimited manpower and materials on D-day. Brandon was wrong to schedule such a high-profile games so soon. Hoke & company need a couple more years to develop before Blue is a really serious contender.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:24 a.m.

Not a fan of the Buckeyes(though my parents are both Scarlet and Gray), but you are right. This harshness coming from "fans" is a little "what have you done for me lately". A return to greatness does not come in 1-2 years in college football. It usually takes 3-4 min. Talk about fickle and poor spirit. How many times in the NFL do you watch two teams play twice in the same season, with totally different outcomes? I am not saying the Wolverines had just 1 bad day, as they are obviously outmatched, but this was just 1 game and the first game at that. Relax a little. Thanks OSU. You are right.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

My favorite part was Hearing that Mike Wazowski was on our team!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

Al Borges still has not figured out what to do with Denard. Shameful...... It looked like the JV against the Varsity. Shameful.... I want to amend my pre-season prediction of 10-2 down to 8-4. MSU is going to cream UM. Shameful...


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:20 a.m.

Wait a minute... don't give up yet. Glad you are not a coach. These guys played the DEFENDING national champs who were totally re-loaded. WE are still rebuilding. MSU just played a Boise team that was not reloaded. I think the score was pretty close. Now before you get all gloom and doom, yes, we have a LONG way to go before we can compete for a National Championship, but we are going to make some noise even this year. Hang in there. head up high. It could've been worse but wasn't. Our guys played to the last whistle. This experience WILL make them better. Borges? Not sure. But the TEAM? yes.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

marketing ain't everything ... gotta accomplish something


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

I thought it would be closely contested and we had a chance. But it was clear right away who the better team was. we can still get better and have a successful season but that was a major disappointment. I thought going in we would be 10-2 with losses to Alabama and OSU, but that game has me a bit demoralized. MSU, Nebraska and Notre Dame look like tougher games all the sudden.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

The offensive scheming was as if we were playing an inferior team. The only chance we had was to throw in the unexpected. Terrible boring Lloyd Carr offense.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Devon and Denard should be in the backfield together.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

I guess the only upside to this game is that Michigan wasn't shut out like LSU was. One of the only other things that kept coming to mind while watching the game was the team personnel situation: this Michigan team is still a mix of RichRod's little fast guys (a disproven theory if there ever was one) and some middling big guys who haven't done much - versus a uniformly oversized (and one might say over-talented) Alabama team. By the end of the game, I was ready to start griping about Al Borges' game strategy. But what I've been saying since last October also popped into my head: the O-Line was simply unable to provide Denard with room to take off on his fabled runs. I hope everyone noticed the pop-up graphic showing the size of 'Bama's D-Line. All well over 300 pounds and heights ranging from 6-3 to 6-6. (I think we can believe those players weren't that heavy because they're obese - there was clearly a lot of muscle in those linemen.) The Michigan D-line can be summed up in one question: have we ever seen a more porous defense against the run? There were moments when I almost believed Saban would pull his QB from the game and just let the running backs take over every play. (LOL!) My sole annoyance lies with the constant sports commentator's line "what a great coach" - being applied to Nick Saban. So Saban beefed up the 'Bama boys and now they can out-muscle just about anyone. That's not "greatness" -- it's just clear thinking. That Saban gets extra credit for this as a "strategist" and as a "detail oriented coach" really boggles the mind. With or without Toussant: Michigan would lose to a bigger, faster, more talented opponent. Toussant would have made Michigan's score deficit smaller but that's about all. Moving on: it remains only to see which of Michigan's 2012 opponents have more big, talented players. You can pretty much predict this season's win/loss ratio based on that.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

I just wanna know who voted "A"s for everything? Really?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

I voted "B", because I thought they would lose even worse than they did . UM exceeded my expectations.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:15 a.m.

'Bama fans. I think they loved the way we played. This team will be good. They have weaknesses and can't hang with a top team like Bama. It will come. Patience to all those discourage. It took Bama 2-3 years to turn around, and it will take U of M that long too.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Fitz Touissant


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

What else do you expect? This is a poll vote by FANS. I've never thought that "objectivity" and fan thinking are even similar, let alone synonymous. ;-)


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1 p.m.



Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Norfleet's ability as a return man was the only positive thing that came out of this game. The coaching calls were actually decent, its just that the players didnt make the plays - they didnt execute. The run defense was awful, just awful. But, the the primary guy who failed was Denard. I couldn't discern any improvement in him from last year. I can't wait until real QBs play for Michigan again.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Simply don't understand lack of imagination on offense. I realize 'Bama's defense was designed to take away the running game--particularly Denard's--but there seemed to be no adjustment, no countering what the Tide threw at them. Offense was so predictable that it is little surprise the best defense in college football stuffed it. Very disappointing. Not like you didn't get opportunity to study and prepare. Very disappointing.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

This is exactly how I feel. What have they been doing all this time? I've spent 9 months hoping that they've been preparing and improving but I felt like we watched the same team from 2011 come out and get destroyed on national television. I'm embarrassed and ashamed and the fact they're going to win their next 3 or so games doesn't comfort me. If they didn't take this game seriously I don't really care about how well they do after this.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

I thought the return man Northfleet did very well....he ran straight ahead and with no fear......but other than that it was a total blow out......very telling game, last year all the breaks went their way, but that was last year....but to get that dominated up front is very concerning......very disappointing......


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 8:14 a.m.

Our lines are still incomplete... recruits are coming. Honestly, this is exactly what I expected in line play. But in the next 1-3 years, this is going to change. Norfleet is a great addition.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

Is the Will Campbell experiment over.......he got blown out.....


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Norfleet looked great. He's going to be an exceptional return man.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

"A little less object in how it may be presented and graded." ???????

Pete Cunningham

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

"Objective." The error has been corrected.