Dec. 30, 2011
Day three in New Orleans was full of activity for the University of Michigan football team on Friday (Dec. 30) as preparation continued for the 78th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl. Press conferences, practice, patient visits and pins were all on the docket.
About 30 players got up early and attended the 43rd annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Allstate Sugar Bowl Breakfast at a nearby hotel. Senior/junior safety Jordan Kovacs spoke on behalf of the Michigan contingent.
At 9:15 a.m., U-M held a formal press conference for the offense, which included offensive coordinator Al Borges, junior quarterback Denard Robinson, junior/sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, fifth-year center David Molk, senior tight end Kevin Koger and fifth-year senior wide receiver Junior Hemingway. Among the wide range in topics discussed with the players were Robinson's growth as a passer, Hemingway's pride in blocking, and Toussaint's dancing acumen.
The focus of Coach Borges' press conference was the dispatching of Robinson and Toussaint against Virginia Tech's attacking defense. The Hokies had 15 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries this season (U-M had eight picks and 19 recoveries).
"[VT defensive coordinator Bud Foster] has the ability to crowd the box to stop the run, particularly in certain situational groups, depending on who you put on the field," explained Borges. "Plus he has the ability by down and distance to play pass and still get pressure on your quarterback."
Michigan's rushing offense against Virginia Tech's run defense will be the strength vs. strength match-up under great scrutiny. U-M has averaged 235.7 yards rushing per game, while VT yields a mere 107.8. Borges believes that the Robinson/Toussaint ground combination plus the rapidly improving passing skills from Robinson will be paramount to U-M's attack against the Hokies.
"What Denard's done in really the last three games (see stat of the day below), he has got a much better feel for what we're doing with our passing game conceptually, where the first, second and third read is, and when to use his legs, which is huge for Denard, because we talk a lot about using your legs as a check down," explained Borges.
"Fitz carrying the ball and taking the load off does a lot," said Robinson. "I am not taking as many carries as I am used to doing and I am enjoying it. I love seeing other guys shine and do their thing. I love seeing Fitz run down the field and score touchdowns. I love seeing 'Big-Play' Hemingway catch the ball. I enjoy seeing people do things."
Full pads were in order for the midday practice amid blue skies and 73 degrees. In the latter stages of the 90-minute practice speakers were pumping "Seven Nation Army" and "Jump Around" throughout the Tulane facility to simulate the raucous atmosphere expected in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in four days.
Following practice the senior class as well as a few other upperclassmen visited the West Jefferson Medical Center. Players visited with children as well as adults and made their way around to pediatrics, oncology and the rehabilitation unit.
Finishing off the day was an evening event at Mid City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl. The players squared off into teams to show off their other athletic talents.
Watch MGoBlueTV's behind the scenes coverage of the entire day.
Dec. 31 will bring the U-M defense press conference, Michigan's first practice at the Superdome, and a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River.
NOTE OF THE DAY
"There's only one fight song in the College Football Hall of Fame. That's The Victors!"
U-M radio play-by-play announcer Frank Beckmann, who interjected David Molk's response after a Virginia Tech reporter asked him to rate which song was better for entering the playing field to start a game, "Enter Sandman" or "The Victors."
STAT OF DAY
Over the last three games, Denard Robinson has completed 68.9 percent of his passes (31-for-45) for 439 yards and five touchdowns. He has also rushed 61 times for 283 yards and six touchdowns.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Fifth-year senior center David Molk on his last game as a Wolverine: "Your last game at Michigan is the game you will remember forever. It's the end of college football. It's the end of all your friends and all you know. It is special to go out with a win."