October 29, 2012

Karsch: From the sidelines

Michigan sideline reporter Doug Karsch saw it all unfold in Lincoln, from the nail-biting start to the nail-in-the-coffin finish. He witnessed firsthand what losing senior quarterback Denard Robinson cost the Wolverines.

Here's Karsch…

On the scene when Robinson left the game: "It started the exact same way it went down in the Illinois game. Denard grabbed his arm, almost in the same way. It looked exactly the same.

"I was under the impression he was coming back into the game, just like he did against Illinois. Clearly, that didn't happen. You never know what the whole story is with some injuries. This might be just one of those cases.

"It became clear he wasn't going to play and it became Russell Bellomy's game. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brady [Hoke] called the whole offense over to the sidelines and said, 'Hey look, guys. He's pretty good. He's a young guy, but we can win this game. The defense is giving us stops, and we've got to help this guy out.'

"And they hadn't. They hadn't been able to generate any rushing attack, which was going to be difficult, because you knew Nebraska was going to load up on the run. Then even when Bellomy delivered it on target, guys dropped passes.

"Brady seemed to be challenging the skill-position players and the offensive line to try and get Bellomy going. And you know what? They had a really good drive right after that, but it led up to the interception in the end zone."

On those who questioned Robinson's enthusiasm level on the sidelines: "It was hard for me to tell how much pain he was in. But I always find it fascinating when that much analysis goes into a snapshot, five seconds of TV copy.

"I saw Denard talking to people. I saw him doing things. But you see two or three shots of him standing in a coat, staring straight ahead, and everybody thinks he's totally disengaged. I find that to be ridiculous.

"I remember the Notre Dame game, after Denard was struggling, and there was the timeout. He was on the field, and everybody looks to him, and he's got everybody laughing. Yeah, he hadn't had a good game, but whether he was trying to keep the team loose at that time, or just letting the team know he would be fine, and they were going to come back and win this game, people took that the wrong way.

"It's always interesting to me when people read that much into a three-second shot they see because the director put the camera on Denard Robinson. He may have been thinking about something. It might have been during a timeout, when there was nothing to say or do.

"I don't get it.

"I don't know what Denard was doing from a leadership standpoint, but I didn't draw any conclusions, based on what I saw, that he wasn't into it enough."

On the defense wearing down in the second half: "I brought that up to Jordan Kovacs after the game, and he didn't buy into it, that they wore down. It appeared to be that they did, and they wouldn't want to admit it if they did anyway.

"The defense played well enough to win. The fact is, Nebraska could play with the lead and call plays they were comfortable with. Taylor Martinez had a couple of completions, including the touchdown. If you get ahead of him and force him to throw, I think he can be beaten.

"When Denard left that game, they had a chance to take the lead. It would have been too early for Nebraska to get away from its game plan, but when Nebraska gets away from its game plan, they're going to have trouble, too.

"I thought the defense did a nice job. Their stand after the Bellomy interception that got returned to the 5-yard line was outstanding. They kept those weapons, for the most part, in check.

"They were put in bad positions by the offense. I still think their defense continues to get better every single week."

On seeing any discussion about junior wide receiver Devin Gardner as an alternative at quarterback: "No. Look, the intricacies that go into game-planning for a quarterback … if he's not practicing there, and knowing what they're putting in for Nebraska, you're going into the fight with one hand tied behind your back, if not both.

"I understand why they didn't put Devin Gardner in the game. Now, do they prepare Devin Gardner at quarterback if Denard can't play? Sure. But they were also showing faith in Bellomy.

"It's not like Gardner has been so good at wide receiver that he doesn't need to practice there, either. He's got to try to continue to get better there to help this team.

"They don't have a ton of depth at receiver or quarterback. Depth gets exposed most when you suffer injuries."

On redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons' effort on field goals: "When [Matt] Wile kicked the one toward the south end zone, I didn't sense any strong wind blowing in his face. Down on the field, there was very little wind.

"Sometimes when a ball gets up a little bit, the wind impacts it above the surface of the field. I don't think wind played a factor in that. He just mishit it a little.

"I've got to give Gibby a lot of credit. And there might be a lesson to be learned there, when people talk about Russell Bellomy. If I told people two years ago, after the season he had, that Brendan Gibbons would be one of the most reliable kickers in the country, people wouldn't buy it.

"Let's keep that in mind when we're judging Russell Bellomy."

On Michigan's defensive coaches: "This defensive staff is so tuned in. Those kids talk about diagnosing plays in the film room. After the Bellomy interception, where he tracked the guy down and tackled him inside the five, it showed.
"There was a timeout, then the defense takes the field, and there's a third-down play from the 3-yard line. Greg Mattison sees the formation, sees the guy go in motion, and immediately starts screaming, 'Pass! Pass! Pass!'

"That's an example of the coaching staff making an impact on a play. That was from a down-and-distance where they could have decided to hand it off, thinking they could get their three yards.

"I didn't know what they were going to do, but I could hear Mattison clear as a bell, screaming at his defense that it was going to be a pass, and they were ready for it.

"They knew what Nebraska was going to do there. And to be honest with you, that's fun to watch."

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