August 31, 2013
Borton's Blog: Opening possibilities
With apologies to Crosby, Stills and Nash, college football teams need to crush the ones they're with. Schedules get created, and teams that look beyond today tend to sink their tomorrows.
Nobody ought to latch onto the potential fool's gold of a 59-9 decimation of Central Michigan as if the Wolverines had just humbled Alabama, or even Notre Dame. Within moments of the opening kickoff, the already suspect Chippewas skipped chipped in favor of broken, losing their starting quarterback and tailback to fractures.
What followed impacted MAC (Mid-American Conference) pride like a solid month of Big Macs impacts a cholesterol test. It got ugly faster than Botox injections gone awry.
Michigan's Devin Gardner danced around the Chips with grace and ease, throwing for a touchdown, running for two more, and leaving defenders screwing themselves into Michigan's FieldTurf. Sure, he pitched a couple of opening-day interceptions, but they served only as a reminder of what not to do, while providing the Wolverines' defense a chance to lock the end zone gates.
Look at all the benefits of Devastation Central:
- Not only did Gardner get to knock the rust off in a confidence-building performance, the quarterbacks tasked with stepping in if he goes down for any length of time got huge run in the game. Freshman Shane Morris' redshirt evaporated like a blue shirt at an Ohio State practice, and it needed to. His first snaps shouldn't come in a cliffhanger, but exactly how they played out in the opener.
- Michigan's new interior offensive line got to work the bugs out against a (mostly) live opponent. Behind the newbies, fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint made a triumphant return to the Michigan Stadium playing surface, while a pair of rookies debuted.
Derrick Green in particular looked like an un-cabled wrecking ball in a couple of instances, and that's not going to hurt his confidence when it's time to rumble against the big boys.
"We built that all throughout fall camp," Toussaint said of the chemistry between the linemen, as well as those who followed the front wall. "We did a really good job of sticking together. That's what we put the emphasis on, and we came out here and played good football."
- The Wolverines rolled defenders in like hockey lines, getting crucial snaps for rookies and emerging veterans alike. Rookie defensive back Dymonte Thomas set the tone from the very first series, swatting down a punt that allowed wideout Joe Reynolds a scoop and score.
- Michigan dominated in every aspect, building confidence individually and collectively. That's no small achievement, on a weekend that left some Big Ten teams with more questions than answers.
Purdue is looking for its black and gold doors, blown off and left behind in Cincinnati during a 42-7 massacre. Iowa failed to survive a MAC attack for a second straight season, bowing to Northern Illinois, 30-27.
Illinois fought for its miserable little life in holding off Southern Illinois, 42-34, and the rest of the Big Ten remained wise enough not to schedule any other directional schools from that particular state. Meanwhile, Michigan State required a pair of defensive touchdowns to hold off Western Michigan at home, 26-13.
Think Spartan fans would feel better about a 59-point explosion in the opener? If you offered them 59 points combined in MSU's next three non-conference games, more than a few would be tempted to take the deal.
So no, battering a beaten-up pile of Chips isn't some ticket to Pasadena. But you take a glance around, and it's not nothing. Brady Hoke will supply all the perspective-laden grumpiness the Wolverines require, in a week leading up to seeing whether the chickens come home to roost.
Hoke called the Wolverines "sloppy." He barked over penalties. He carped about tackling, and body language. Imagine if the Wolverines hadn't won by half a hundred.
He knows what's coming. He's glad for the start the Wolverines enjoyed, and admitted he allowed himself some thoughts of Notre Dame.
"I didn't really think about it until we were done in the locker room," Hoke said. "I think it gets you ready because the young kids have played in front of 112,000. I think there will be a few more thousand next week.
"The atmosphere on campus, in Ann Arbor, I would think would be electric. It's the last time Notre Dame is going to come to Ann Arbor for a while. I would think that's got significance to it on both parts. Yeah, it was good."
And it might get better in a hurry.
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