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Posts Tagged ‘Desmond Morgan’

Michigan 28 – Maryland 0: Defense dominates Terrapins

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015


Michigan D vs Maryland(MGoBlue.com)

The threat of Hurricane Joaquin moving up the Atlantic coast moved kickoff up eight hours, and perhaps Michigan’s offense didn’t get the memo for the first 30 minutes. But the defense did its part and when the offense woke up Michigan polished off its second straight shut out with a 28-0 win over Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

Maryland looked like it was going to be able to move the ball to start the game, picking up first downs on an 11-yard pass, a 10-yard pass, and an 18-yard run into Michigan territory. The drive stalled at the 47, but Michigan’s offense was unable to get anything going on its first possession.

The teams traded turnovers four of the next five possessions as Jeremy Clark and Desmond Morgan both intercepted Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe and Jake Rudock and Ty Isaac each coughed up fumbles. On Michigan’s first possession of the second quarter, which started with the Morgan interception, the Wolverines advanced to the Maryland 24, but an intentional grounding penalty killed the drive and Kenny Allen missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.

UM-Maryland-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Maryland
Score 28 0
Record 4-1 (1-0) 2-3 (0-1)
Total Yards 378 105
Net Rushing Yards 198 29
Net Passing Yards 180 76
First Downs 14 7
Turnovers 3 3
Penalties-Yards 7-65 5-66
Punts-Yards 6-242 13-473
Time of Possession 34:19 25:41
Third Down Conversions 5-of-17 1-of-18
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-20 2-11
Field Goals 2-for-3 0-for-0
PATs 2-for-2 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

After a Maryland three-and-out, Michigan finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a Jabrill Peppers 29-yard punt return that set the Wolverines up at the Maryland 39. Michigan got as far as the 10 but had to settle for a 30-yard Allen field goal. Allen tacked on another, from 32 yards out, at the end of the quarter to put Michigan ahead 6-0 at the half.

The second half started similar to the first with neither team able to move the ball. Rudock was intercepted by defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson at the Michigan 44 on Michigan’s first possession. But the Wolverine defense forced a three and out. Two possessions later, Michigan finally got its first touchdown of the game when Drake Johnson took a screen pass 31 yards and dove for the pylon. Rudock connected with Khalid Hill for a two-point conversion to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

After forcing another Maryland punt, Michigan wasted no time finding the end zone again. Jehu Chesson took an end-around and raced 66 yards down the left sideline for another touchdown.

Michigan added a final score midway through the fourth. Maryland punted from its own five, but was called for kick catch interference as Peppers caught the punt, which gave Michigan the ball at the Maryland 24. Johnson carried the ball for runs of two and 20 yards, and after a Sione Houma one-yard run, Johnson polished it off with his second touchdown of the game to reach the final score of 28-0.

Despite three turnovers, Michigan’s offense racked up 378 total yards of offense, 198 on the ground. Rudock completed 16 of 32 passes for 180 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Johnson led all rushers with 68 yards on 13 carries (5.2 yards per carry), while Jake Butt led all receivers with 61 yards on 4 receptions.

Michigan’s defense held Maryland to just 105 total yards — the same total BYU reached a week ago. Maryland gained just 35 yards on 46 plays (0.76 yards per play) after its first two possessions of the game. Rowe completed just 8 of 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. Brandon Ross rushed 14 times for 44 yards as Maryland was held to just 1.1 yards per carry.

Morgan led the Michigan defense with nine tackles in addition to his interception. Matt Godin recorded 1.5 sacks, while Maurice Hurst and Willie Henry added one apiece and Mario Ojemudia notched a half a sack. Unfortunately, Ojemudia left the game in the second half with an Achilles injury that may end his season.

The shutout marked the first time Michigan has recorded back-to-back shutouts since the 2000 season.

Michigan improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten play and will host Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) for Homecoming next Saturday. The Wildcats are currently ranked 16th, but may move up in the rankings after topping Minnesota 27-0.

Game Ball – Offense 

Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Johnson emerged in the second half of last season as Michigan’s top running back and had a spectacular game against Ohio State before tearing his ACL for the second time. As this season began, he was buried on the depth chart and didn’t play in the opener at Utah while still recovering from the injury. But he has slowly been working back over the last four weeks, and when De’Veon Smith was ruled out of this one with an ankle injury and Ty Isaac struggled to hold onto the ball in the first half, Johnson was called upon to carry the load. He showed the talent and vision of last season, taking a screen 31 yards for a score, reeling off a 20-yard run, and scoring a rushing touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Like Johnson, Morgan suffered a major injury last season, but it caused him to miss the entire year. The good news is that it gave him a fifth season to be a part of this team and he hasn’t disappointed. Today, he had his best game of the young season, leading all defenders with nine tackles, picking off a pass, and breaking up two passes. He was all over the field and played a major part in holding a second straight opponent to just 105 total yards.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 16-32 180 5.6 1 1 44 2
Caleb Rowe 8-27 47 1.7 0 3 13 3
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
Drake Johnson 13 68 5.2 1 20
Jehu Chesson 1 66 66.0 1 66
Brandon Ross 14 44 3.1 0 18
Derrick Green 7 26 3.7 0 9
Jake Rudock 4 19 4.8 0 20
Ty Isaac 6 17 2.8 0 7
Sione Houma 2 12 6.0 0 11
Wes Brown 5 8 1.6 0 4
Amara Darboh 1 -2 -2.0 0 -2
Ross Taylor-Douglass 3 -3 -1.0 0 1
Caleb Rowe 1 -8 -8.0 0 -8
Daxx Garman 6 -15 -2.5 0 3
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Jake Butt 4 61 15.2 0 44
Jehu Chesson 4 41
10.2 0 16
Drake Johnson 1 31 31.0 1 31
Amara Darboh 3 27 9.0 0 15
Wes Brown 2 26 13.0 0 22
Levern Jacobs 3 20 6.7 0 11
D.J. Moore 2 17 8.5 0 10
Sione Houma 2 14 7.0 0 9
Kenneth Goins Jr. 1 13 13.0 0 13
Drake Harris 1 6 6.0 0 6
Taivon Jacobs 1 1 1.0 0 1
Freddy Canteen 1 0 0.0 0 0
Brandon Ross 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 2/3 66.7 32 2/2 8
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 6 242 40.3 0 2 59
Nate Pritchard 10 360 36.0 0 1 46
Brad Craddock 3 113 37.7 0 1 52
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 1 21 21.0 21 0
William Likely 4 91 22.8 31 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 3 38 12.7 29 0
William Likely 3 23 7.7 12 0

Predicting Michigan 2015: The linebackers

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-Linebackers

Joe Bolden(Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

Michigan’s linebacker corps was rock solid last season, but with its fearless leader Jake Ryan graduating to the NFL, it’ll be critical for a largely unproven group to fill the void.

As a unit, the Michigan linebackers were great in the run-stopping game last season, flocking to the ball, and for the most part, keeping running backs from getting to the outside. For the defense to take a step forward in 2015, the three starters will have to lock down the middle of the field and support the defensive line in the run game.

Here’s how the linebackers stack up.

Probable starters

More so than with other positions on the roster, there’s a clear separation in the chain of command within the linebacker core. The starters will be three seniors with a ton of experience over the past three seasons.

Joe Bolden figures to be the physical and vocal leader of the group after starting all 12 games in 2014. Bolden was a beast in the middle of the field, making 102 tackles, and at times, defending the pass. With the departure of Ryan, Bolden is the most likely candidate to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. He has five career sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a linebacker and continues to improve each season.

In the middle will be redshirt senior Desmond Morgan, whose 2014 season was lost to injury after the opener against Appalachian State. Morgan was Michigan’s best linebacker in 2013, with Ryan sidelined by injury, recording 79 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three passes defended. Morgan is valuable in the middle of the field because he can dominate all aspects of the position, swallowing up ball carriers and dropping back into coverage. Morgan’s return will help soften the blow of losing Ryan, who was the undisputed leader last year.

The final starting spot will go to James Ross, who recorded 32 tackles in 12 games last season. Ross was quiet in 2014 after picking up 85 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore and beginning the season with huge expectations. He can drop into coverage with tight ends and make plays on the ball in the backfield, though he disappeared at times last season. He’ll need to be closer to the player he was in 2013 to be a threat from the outside.

Projected Stats – Bolden
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
80 5.0 3.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
38 99 88 187 5.0 12.0 0 1 0
Projected Stats – Morgan
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
100 7.0 1.5
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
37 111 118 229 2.5 14.0 1 2 1
Projected Stats – Ross
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
50 5.0 1.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
37 86 67 153 2.0 11.0 2 1 0

Returning contributors

This is where the linebacker core gets a bit thin for Michigan. Royce Jenkins-Stone has the best chance after the starters to make an impact at linebacker this season after playing in 11 games last year. His value comes from his speed and athleticism, as he can drop into coverage better than most linebackers and can get around blockers to make a play on the ball. Jenkins-Stone has just eight career tackles, but he’s a candidate to break out in 2015 if he earns more snaps.

Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray also saw some time on the field last year, playing in 11 games apiece. Gedeon made 17 tackles and picked up a sack against Miami (Ohio). His specialty is getting into the backfield, where he can be disruptive off the edge. McCray, however, is more of a form tackler and can make plays if he’s in position. He’s the slowest of this group of linebackers, but he won’t miss a tackle and he can shed would-be blockers.

Michigan will need at least one of these three players to step up and give the linebackers some depth heading into the season.

Career Stats – Jenkins-Stone
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
12 2 6 8 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Gedeon
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 21 15 36 2.0 2.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – McCray
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 2 0 2 0.0 1.0 0 0 0

New face

Michigan didn’t bring in any high-profile linebackers to fortify the position this offseason, but they did move defensive end Jack Dunaway, from Bloomfield, to linebacker as a freshman. Dunaway likely won’t play much of a role on the field in 2015, but he’s a good tackler and can make plays in the backfield. The coaching staff hopes his move to linebacker will add depth to the position, which looks so thin after the starters.

Meet the rest

Allen Gant – senior, 6’2″, 225 from Sylvania, Ohio (Southview), 12 games played, 5 total tackles
Jared Wangler – sophomore, 6’2″, 230 from Royal Oak, Mich. (De La Salle), no career stats
Chris Terech – freshman, 6’2″, 215 from Saline, Mich. (Saline), no career stats
Nick Benda – senior, 6’0″, 223 from Champion, Mich. (Westwood), no career stats
John Andrysiak – freshman, 6’1″, 215 from Flint, Mich. (Powers Catholic), no career stats
Michael Wroblewski – junior, 6’2″, 241 from Saint Clair Shores, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit), no career stats
Tommy Whitted – freshman, 6’1″, 225 from Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park), no career stats
Dan Liesman – senior, 6’2″, 233 from Lansing, Mich. (Lansing Catholic), no career stats
James Offerdahl – freshman, 6’2″, 220 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Cardinal Gibbons), no career stats
Noah Furbush – sophomore, 6’4″, 217 from Kenton, Ohio (Kenton)
Cheyenn Robertson – freshman, 6’3″, 220 from Union City, N.J. (St. Peter’s Prep), no career stats

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2014

Monday, July 13th, 2015


Ohio State Navy Football(AP photo)

Less than eight weeks remain before Michigan football returns. Not only will the Wolverines kick off a new era of Michigan football, but they will open up the entire college football season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Utah. Minnesota faces TCU that same night, while Michigan State and Illinois follow on Friday night. The majority of the Big Ten plays on Saturday as usual, but visits Marshall on Sunday and Ohio State caps the weekend with a trip to Virginia Tech on Monday night.

As we look forward to a new season, it’s time to take a look at one indicator of how the Big Ten might play out. A couple of weeks ago we reviewed how returning production factored into each team’s success in 2014. Maryland had the most but finished in the middle of the pack. Ohio State had the least but won the Big Ten and national title. So what does it look like as we enter the 2015 season? Let’s take a look.

Offense

Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Offense Rating
Ohio State 88% 9
Penn State 81% 111
Nebraska 69% 31
Illinois 63% 94
Michigan 62% 112
Wisconsin 60% 21
Rutgers 55% 73
Minnesota 54% 103
Michigan State 54% 11
Northwestern 51% 104
Purdue 48% 108
Iowa 41% 63
Indiana 40% 61
Maryland 29% 109
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Scoring Offense Rating
Ohio State 83% 5
Michigan 64% 109
Penn State 64% 110
Nebraska 61% 12
Illinois 58% 84
Northwestern 58% 98
Rutgers 55% 80
Minnesota 54% 66
Wisconsin 51% 27
Purdue 47% 95
Michigan State 44% 7
Maryland 36% 65
Indiana 35% 87
Iowa 31% 68

While Michigan has made the headlines all offseason thanks to the antics of Harbaugh, its chief rival, Ohio State, is the reigning national champions and looks to be even stronger this season. The Buckeyes return the most total offense and scoring offense of any team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes lost just 112 total rushing yards and four of 41 rushing touchdowns. Receiver Devin Smith’s 931 yards and 12 touchdowns will need to be replaced, but that’s the only significant loss among offensive skill position players, and OSU returns four starting offensive linemen. With 88 percent of the nation’s ninth-best offense and 83 percent of the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense returning, it’s no wonder Ohio State is the hands-on favorite to win the Big Ten and play for the national title once again. And those numbers don’t even include two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller, who missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury. In other words, the Buckeyes are stacked.

Penn State returns the second most offensive production with 81 percent of its offense and 64 percent of its scoring. However, while Ohio State’s offense ranked among the nation’s best last season, Penn State’s was among the nation’s worst, ranking 111th in total offense and 109th in scoring offense. Eight starters return, most notably quarterback Christian Hackenberg who enters his third season as a starter. Leading rusher Akeel Lynch and the top two leading receivers, DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, are also back. The offensive line, which was the source of most of Penn State’s troubles last season, returns four starters and brings in a couple of transfers to vie for the fifth spot.

Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan each return about the same amount of offense. The Cornhuskers have 69 percent of their 31st-ranked offense and 61 percent of their 12th-ranked scoring offense coming back. However, they’ll have to replace running back Ameer Abdullah’s 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns, as well as Kenny Bell’s 788 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Illinois brings back 63 percent of its offense and 58 percent of its scoring returning. The top four receivers and leading rusher are back along with quarterback Wes Lunt. However, leading receiver Mike Dudek, who topped 1,000 yards a year ago, will miss some time after tearing his ACL in the spring.

Michigan returns 62 percent of its total offense and 64 percent of its scoring offense. Like Penn State, Michigan’s offense was miserable a year ago. Devin Funchess is the big loss, accounting for 36 percent of Michigan’s receiving yards. Jehu Chesson will have to step into a larger role in the pass catching department. Quarterback Devin Gardner is gone, but Iowa transfer Jake Rudock brings 2,436 yards (540 more than Gardner) and 16 touchdowns (six more) to the table. While Michigan has the second most returning touchdowns percentage-wise, the 34 touchdowns are well short of Ohio State’s 102.

Of the group in the middle of the pack of returning production, Wisconsin had the best offense last season. The Badgers return 60 percent of the nation’s 20th-best total offense and 51 percent of the 27th-best scoring offense. Melvin Gordon’s 2,740 total yards and 32 touchdowns make up nearly all of the team’s lost production.

Michigan State, which was the only Big Ten team with an offense similar to Ohio State’s in 2014, returns 54 percent of the 11th-ranked offense, but just 44 percent of the seventh-best scoring offense. Thirty-seven of the Spartans’ 43 rushing touchdowns and 16 of 26 receiving touchdowns are gone. But with quarterback Connor Cook returning Michigan State’s offense should still be strong if it can find skill position players to step up.

Maryland, which entered last season with nearly its entire offense returning (97.5 of its total offense and 94.4 percent of its scoring offense), is on the other side of the coin entering this fall. The Terrapins return just 29 percent of their total offense and 36 percent of their scoring. Quarterback CJ Brown, who also led the team in rushing, as well as the top four receivers, will need to be replaced.

Defense

Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Defense Rating
Ohio State 74% 19
Illinois 71% 109
Northwestern 67% 53
Michigan State 67% 8
Michigan 63% 7
Minnesota 62% 39
Wisconsin 61% 4
Purdue 60% 80
Penn State 59% 2
Rutgers 57% 98
Nebraska 56% 52
Iowa 56% 22
Indiana 53% 93
Maryland 44% 95

Entering last season, the top three defenses in the Big Ten from 2013 had the least production returning. Still, those three teams – Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin – finished among the top six in total defense the Big Ten in 2014. Entering this fall, the top three defenses from last season — Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan — stand in the middle third of the conference in terms of returning production (tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and takeaways).

Penn State had the Big Ten’s best defense a year ago, allowing just 278.7 yards and 18.6 points per game. The Nittany Lions return 59 percent of last season’s production, which ranks ninth in the conference. Linebacker Mike Hull, who led the team with 140 tackles and ranked third with 10.5 tackles for loss, will have to be replaced, but the next five leading tacklers are all back. Head coach James Franklin will also have to replace both defensive ends, who combined for nine sacks, but he does have tackle Anthony Zettel, who led the team with eight, back.

Wisconsin featured the Big Ten’s second best defense and scoring defense last season and the nation’s fourth-best total defense. Despite losing two of their top three tacklers, linebackers Marcus Trotter and Derrick Landisch, the Badgers return 61 percent of last season’s proaction.

Michigan, meanwhile, ranked third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense last season and returns the fifth-most production at 63 percent. Leading tackler Jake Ryan is gone, but will be backfilled by fifth-year senior Desmond Morgan who recorded 229 tackles from 2011-2013 before missing last season with an injury. The defensive line lost a combined 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks from ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, but the core of the defense — especially the back seven — is back.

Michigan State had the conference’s fourth-best total defense and third-best scoring defense a year ago, and returns 67 percent this year. The top two returning tacklers, Kurtis Drummond and Taiwan Jones, as well as the best corner, Trae Waynes, are gone. The three accounted for 36 percent of MSU’s takeaways.

The team with the most returning production this season is the same team that also returns the most offensive production, the defending Big Ten and national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Seventy-four percent of the defense that ranked fifth in the Big Ten and 19th nationally is back in action this fall, including the top four tacklers and top two in sacks, Joey Bosa and Darron Lee. In fact, even though they lose 11 sacks, Ohio State returns 33.5 sacks, which would have ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season. The Bucks also bring back 72 percent of their takeaways from a unit that ranked second in that category in 2014.

Rutgers, Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana all return between 57 percent and 53 percent of their defenses, though they ranked between sixth (Iowa) and 13th (Rutgers) in the Big Ten in total defense a year ago. The Hawkeyes have to replace their top two tacklers and more than 50 percent of their tackles for loss and sacks. Nebraska has to replace four of their top five tacklers, including defensive end Randy Gregory who led the team with seven sacks. Rutgers has 71 percent of their sacks coming back from unit that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in that category, but behind the front four the Scarlet Knights have a lot of holes to fill. Indiana brings back just five starters from a defense that allowed the second most points in the conference last season.

Finally, the team that returned the most defense last season returns the least this year. Maryland is the only Big Ten squad with less than 50 percent of last season’s defensive production returning. The Terrapins return just 44 percent of last year’s 95th-ranked defense. Only four starters return, most notably corners Sean Davis and Will Likely, but nearly the entire front seven has to be replaced.

Conclusion

Ohio State is in the same spot Maryland was entering last season. The Buckeyes have the most returning production across the board. However, the Buckeyes are in a much better spot to allow that production to pay off. Whereas Maryland ranked 77th, 83rd, and 44th in total offense, scoring offense, and total defense in 2013, Ohio State ranked ninth, fifth, and 19th, respectively, last season. Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa just plugged in talent on defense and didn’t miss a beat last season, and all four return more this fall.

2014to2015 Returning Production Chart

According to the chart above, Rutgers is in the exact spot Ohio State was entering last season. Does that mean the Scarlet Knights will roll through the Big Ten and into the College Football Playoff? Probably not since the Buckeyes stand alone atop the chart. Last year, there was only one offense returning less than 50 percent of its production. This year there are four, so we could see a decline in offense across the league. Nine of the league’s 14 primary quarterbacks return, in addition to Rudock, who will likely start for Michigan, and Ohio State’s three-headed monster.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out this fall, but of course this is just one metric to use when predicting performance. Stay tuned for our individual team previews over the course of the next seven weeks as well as our Michigan position previews and other season preview content.

Egg Laid: Notre Dame 31 – Michigan 0

Sunday, September 7th, 2014


Gardner hit vs ND(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

The main storyline coming into Saturday’s primetime showdown between Michigan and Notre Dame was the series between two of college football’s most historic programs coming to an end. But it was the end of another streak that hurt the most.

For 30 years and 365 consecutive games, from the final five years of Bo Schembechler’s tenure, through Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and yes, even Rich Rodriguez, Michigan had managed to put at least a safety on the scoreboard. But a year after Brady Hoke accused Notre Dame of chickening out of the series, it was his Wolverines that laid an egg.

Michigan entered Notre Dame Stadium looking to win for the fifth time in the last six meetings, but left with its worst loss and first shutout in series history, 31-0.

After forcing a Notre Dame punt to start the game, Michigan’s offense got to work, efficiently marching from its own 23 to Notre Dame’s 29. The drive stalled there and Matt Wile missed a 46-yard field goal. Notre Dame seized the momentum, driving 71 yards in eight plays for the game’s first score, a one-yard Cam McDaniel run.

Michigan responded with a nice drive that once again stalled just before the Irish red zone. Wile’s 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and suddenly an offense that gained 92 yards on its first two possessions had no points to show for it. Two possessions later, Notre Dame hit pay dirt again, this time through the air as Everett Golson found Amir Carlisle from a yard out.

UM-ND-small-final-final
Final Stats
Michigan Notre Dame
Score 0 31
Record 1-1 2-0
Total Yards 289 280
Net Rushing Yards 100 54
Net Passing Yards 189 226
First Downs 18 20
Turnovers 4 0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 3-20
Punts-Yards 4-170 6-230
Time of Possession 33:04 26:56
Third Down Conversions 4-of-13 7-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-16 2-16
Field Goals 0-for-2 1-for-1
PATs 0-for-0 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 0-of-0 4-of-4
Full Box Score

That’s the way the rest of the night went: Notre Dame methodically picking apart Michigan’s defense and Michigan’s offense unable to find an answer. By the time halftime mercifully came, Michigan had dug itself a 21-point hole that on the stat sheet felt closer, but in reality felt more like 50.

As the second half began, the glimmer of hope that the coaching staff could find an adjustment that would turn things around faded into depression as Devin Gardner was intercepted five plays in. The defense held strong despite Notre Dame starting at Michigan’s 38, but ND punter Kyle Brindza stuck a punt at the two-yard line. It felt like a dagger.

Michigan punted it back and the Irish responded with a  12-yards touchdown pass from Golson to Carlisle. The downward spiral continued as Gardner fumbled on the next possession and threw an interception on the following.

By the fourth quarter, Michigan fans were relegated to simply rooting for the points-scored streak to continue, but it wasn’t so. The Wolverines’ offense, in its second game under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, failed to reach the Notre Dame red zone and only crossed midfield on four of 11 possessions.

Michigan out-gained Notre Dame 289 to 280, but routinely gave up good field position and the Irish capitalized. Michigan held Notre Dame to just 54 yards rushing on 31 attempts (1.7 yards per carry), but surrendered 226 yards through the air.

After starting 6-of-6 in the first quarter, Gardner finished the game 19-of-32 for 189 yards and three interceptions. Devin Funchess caught nine passes for 107 yards, while Jehu Chesson caught three for 30. Michigan managed 100 yards rushing on 35 attempts (2.9 yards per carry), led by De’Veon Smith’s 31 yards on seven carries (4.3) and Derrick Green’s 28 yards on 13 carries (1.9).

All-in-all, it was a nightmare in every sense of the word as Notre Dame carries the bragging rights into the indefinite series hiatus, Michigan’s 30-year scoring streak came to an end, and it suffered some injuries in the process that could affect the rest of the season.

Raymon Taylor left the game in the first half and reportedly left the stadium in a leg cast. Funchess went down in the fourth, and although he came back in for the final series, he was noticeably limping and also reportedly left the stadium in a boot. Frank Clark had his right arm in a cast and Michigan played the entire game without Desmond Morgan and Jabrill Peppers.

It’s no secret that Hoke doesn’t discuss injuries, and he stressed that in the post game press conference, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that his time in Ann Arbor is ticking down. He by and large managed to avoid true hot seat talk through the offseason and could have quelled it with a promising season, but after Saturday’s goose egg in South Bend, it’s hard to find a believer anymore. He’s now 7-12 away from the Big House and 6-9 in true road games, and with road trips to East Lansing and Columbus still to come, he may need to win one or both to keep his job.

But as disheartening as Saturday’s performance was, let’s keep it in perspective. Michigan is now 1-1 and still has 10 games left to play. Conference play hasn’t yet started, so the team’s number one goal — to win the Big Ten — is still there for the taking. That doesn’t mean it will be easy — far from it — but perhaps Hoke can use this to galvanize the team. Remember 2007 when Michigan suffered a humiliating defeat to Appalachian State and followed it up by getting thumped by Oregon, 39-7? That team pulled itself together and won its next eight, including a 38-0 beatdown of Notre Dame the very next week, and closed the season with an upset of a ninth-ranked Florida team led by Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow.

The sting of Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame will take a while to go away, but there’s a lot of football left to play this season. We’ll find out in the weeks to come how much resolve this team has. Will it learn from its mistakes and rally the rest of the season behind its beleaguered coach? Or will it wallow in its misery and pack it in? It starts when a bird of a different feather comes to town next Saturday.

Predicting Michigan: The linebackers

Sunday, July 20th, 2014


Predicting-Michigan-LB

Ryan-Morgan(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

PreviouslyQuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight EndsOffensive Line

Despite the overall struggles of the defense for the majority of the 2013 season, the linebacking corps laid a solid foundation for Greg Mattison and carried the bulk of the load between a mediocre defensive line and frustrating secondary.

The unit took a huge blow during the 2013 offseason when its leader, Jake Ryan, tore his ACL and figured to miss the majority of the year. Ryan astonished the trainers by returning against Penn State on October 12, one week short of seven months after suffering the injury. The captain made an immediate impact by recording his first tackle for loss of the season.

Mattison will surely look to his linebackers to lead the defensive turnaround this season. Three of the most talented players on the Michigan roster will start for this unit and set the tone for an otherwise unproven defense.

The Starters

Ryan is a lock to start the season at middle linebacker for Michigan, coming off a year in which he won his second straight Roger Katcher Award for best Michigan linebacker despite missing the first five games of the season. He made the move from strong-side linebacker in the spring as a way to put the best player in the middle of the defense. Brady Hoke said that teams were able to run plays away from him and take him out of the play last season. The move to the middle will keep that from happening.

During his last full season, 2012, Ryan was clearly the most talented defensive player on the team, leading the team with 88  tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The fifth-year senior has five forced fumbles and over 150 tackles in his Michigan career.

Alongside Ryan will be senior Desmond Morgan, perhaps the most consistent linebacker from a year ago. Morgan started all 13 games for Mattison and held the unit together during Ryan’s absence. Morgan snagged a critical interception at Connecticut to help Michigan escape a major upset bid and recorded 79 tackles to bring his career total up to 223.

The final piece to the starting linebacking corps will be James Ross III, who emerged as one of the best young players on the team in 2013. Ross played in 12 games as a sophomore, missing only the Ohio State game in which the defense allowed 393 yards on the ground. Ross recorded 85 tackles last season and will be crucial in the run-stopping game at strong-side linebacker.

Career Stats – Ryan
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
34 99 56 155 7.5 31.5 5 3 0
Career Stats – Morgan
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
36 107 116 223 2.5 14.0 1 2 1
Career Stats – Ross III
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 67 54 121 2.0 8.0 2 1 0

Veteran Depth

A pair of juniors emerged from camp as potential contributors to the linebacker rotation after strong springs. Joe Bolden was one of the names that coaches talked about having an incredible off-season in early April, and he took first-team snaps at weak-side linebacker during the spring game. Morgan will almost certainly retain his starting position after a third fantastic season in a row, but Bolden has a chance to make a major impact after racking up over 50 tackles in 2013.

Bolden is joined by classmate Royce Jenkins-Stone in his battle to crack the starting lineup. Jenkins-Stone took most of the snaps at strong-side linebacker during the spring game, but he will almost certainly play behind Ross when the season begins. The junior has played just one game at linebacker in each of the last two seasons and hopes to play a more important role in 2014.

Sophomore Ben Gedeon played in six games at linebacker as a true freshman last season, but saw extended action against Ohio State, recording six tackles and a sack, flashing the potential he showed as a consensus four-star recruit. He’ll see increased action this fall rotating in for Morgan.

Career Stats – Bolden
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
26 44 41 85 3.0 8.0 0 1 0
Career Stats – Jenkins-Stone
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 5 6 11 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Gedeon
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
13 9 10 19 1.0 1.0 0 0 0

The Newcomers

Linebacker was a major focus for Brady Hoke during the 2014 recruiting process as he brought in three freshman to provide some added depth. Four-star Michael Ferns enrolled early and has been working with the coaches throughout the offseason. Ferns totaled over 130 tackles in each of his final three years in high school and gives Hoke an option behind Ryan on the inside.

Three-stars Jared Wangler and Noah Furbush will also join the defense in 2014 after committing to Michigan last summer. Wangler has a strong chance to see the field as a freshman as he offers help in the pass coverage game and spent much of his high school career in the secondary. Furbush could also earn some playing time with a strong summer, though the outside linebacking core is crowded.

M&GB Roundtable discusses Michigan Football Legends jerseys

Friday, July 11th, 2014


Roundtable-Legends jerseys

Gardner legends jersey(USATSI)

Two weeks ago we debuted our M&GB Roundtable series that will run every couple weeks throughout the summer. Each of these roundtables will discuss a hot topic related to the upcoming season. Last time, we discussed the status of Brady Hoke’s hot seat and the consensus seemed to be that unless Michigan goes downhill once again this season, Hoke is safe heading into 2015. Today, we continue the series, this time giving our thoughts on the “Michigan Football Legends” jerseys. Here’s the question:

What’s your take on the “Michigan Football Legends” jerseys? Do you like or dislike them? Are they a good way to tie in tradition or are they too gimicky? Do you think they should be given out every year? If so, who should get numbers 11 and 21 this season? Finally, are there any other numbers you feel should be given legends status?

Justin banner

I really like the Legends jersey program because, even though it was started just a few years ago, it is unique to Michigan and it is a great way to tie in the glorious history of Michigan football. The majority of the numbers that have been given legends status thus far are great players from long ago that most Michigan fans today weren’t alive to see play. Sure, we have read about them and have maybe seen a few photos or video clips, but by and large, Tom Harmon, the Wistert brothers, and Gerald Ford were relics locked away in a time capsule. By bringing their numbers out of retirement, giving their families a pre-game ceremony, and designating the jerseys with their numbers on them with a patch, it’s a great way to both honor those legends and educate the younger generation of Michigan fans.

In addition to honoring the legends and their families and educating Michigan fans that weren’t around to see them play, the program is special and unique for current and future Michigan football players.

“It was an amazing feeling when I was awarded this number,” said Jeremy Gallon when he was given Desmond Howard’s No.21.

“I got it when I was a redshirt sophomore,” recalled Jake Ryan, who wears Bennie Oosterbaan’s No.47. “It was after the Alabama game and coach Hoke brought me in and it was a huge honor knowing that I was wearing the same jerseys as one of the legends who played for Michigan. I had to study up on him, to see what he did to represent this university. It was cool. I learned a lot.”

The current and future players that earn the numbers see it as an honor to get to wear a number that was made famous by a legend before them. Desmond Morgan got to meet Gerald Ford’s family and learn more about him when he was awarded No.48.

That said, I’m conflicted about when each number should be awarded. On one hand, it seems silly to switch a player’s number after he’s already made a name for himself in his current number. For example, Jordan Kovacs, who was No.32 for more than three seasons before switching to 11 for a handful of games. But then again, I like the way No.21 has been given to a top receiver each of the past three seasons, first Junior Hemingway, then Roy Roundtree, then Gallon. I feel like all three guys earned it and looked great in it. Unfortunately, the only receiver who fits that mold this season is Devin Funchess, but he already has Ron Kramer’s No.87. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I would switch Funchess to 21 and award 87 to Jake Butt. Funchess is a star receiver who could very well make the jump to the NFL following this season, which would open up 21 again next season for another star receiver should Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh or Freddy Canteen break out this fall.

No.11 is a tough one. Since the Wistert brothers were offensive tackles, but the number can’t be used for offensive linemen in modern college football, I like the idea of awarding it to a player on the defensive line. But so far it has been given to a safety (Kovacs) and a linebacker (Courtney Avery). I would bring it to the line this fall and give it to Frank Clark. Yes, he has an off-the-field issue from a couple years ago that could keep him from being awarded a legends number, but if Brady Hoke feels Clark has learned and grown from it, I’d be okay with him getting it. If he can’t get No.11 because of that, the only other player I’d give it to this fall would be linebacker James Ross.

Finally, I would give Charles Woodson’s No.2 legends status, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that happened this fall. The staff already gave Blake Countess the number, and Woodson is in likely his final season of an outstanding NFL career. He has always given back to Michigan and represented himself and the university well. As Michigan’s latest Heisman Trophy winner, he would be a great player to honor.

Drew banner

When it was announced prior to the 2011 season that Michigan planned to implement the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, I thought it was a fantastic idea. Most college football programs honor their legends by retiring their numbers in perpetuity. This is a grand gesture, but then fans are unable to see the numbers of their favorite players on the field. Over time, the stories and memories of these legends become lost. Heck, in some cases, even the names are forgotten. According to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, “99 percent of [Michigan] fans couldn’t name the jerseys that were retired—either the numbers of the people.”

With the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, you get the best of both worlds. The legends still are honored. Each Michigan legend is the subject of a pre-game ceremony that commemorates their time at Michigan and showcases the debut of their Legends patch, which will forever be stitched upon the jersey of the number they wore so long ago. And the numbers those legends wore are reinserted into circulation for current and future players to don. For many Michigan fans that have been alive for decades, they had never seen a Wolverine wear Tom Harmon’s No. 98 or President Gerald Ford’s No. 48. Now? They can see those legendary numbers each week in the fall  and recall what made No. 98 and No. 48 so special. It is a great tie to Michigan football’s tradition and to the players that made the program so prestigious.

However, rarely is anything—no matter how great—flawless. I still have a positive view towards the Michigan Football Legends Jersey program, but it has problems that must be addressed. The biggest problem I have is when Michigan’s best players switch to a Legends jersey when they are juniors or seniors. By then, those players have begun creating a legacy for the number they first wore as freshmen. But, by switching, their legacy instantly becomes overshadowed by the legend whose number they now wear. It prevents current players from establishing their own legacy. How can a player who wears a Legends jersey become a Michigan Football Legend on his own in the future? The answer: he cannot.

A great example is former safety Jordan Kovacs. In all likelihood, Kovacs will never be honored as a Michigan Football Legend. And that is okay. But I was frustrated when Kovacs switched from No. 32 to No. 11—one of the Legends jerseys—for the final three games of the 2012 season and his career. Before then, Kovacs had blazed his own trail as the unheralded walk-on everyone initially scoffed at that became one of Michigan’s most beloved players and its best safety in over a decade. And he did all of this as No. 32. This is the number with which he should have finished his career, not No. 11—no disrespect to the Wistert brothers. No. 32 was Kovacs’ legacy. He never should have worn another number.

Therefore, I propose that Legends jerseys only be offered to players prior to their freshman and sophomore seasons. Then those players can decide what number with which they want their legacy to be associated. It does not matter to me if the Legends jerseys are handed out every year. If they are, great. It would be a tribute to those Michigan Football Legends each season. If they are not, that works for me, too. It would make the offering of a Legends jersey more special in the eyes of the players and the fans. The only other number that deserves Legends status is No. 2. All three of Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winners then would be represented. I also would like No. 1 to receive Legends status, but, alas, that number essentially has gone into retirement thanks to Braylon Edwards. And it does not matter to me which players are offered available Legends jerseys this season. As long as they are freshmen or sophomores.

Josh banner

I really like the concept of the legends jerseys. It is not realistic to retire numbers in college and this allows the legends to still be honored without taking away all the numbers. However, I have not been a fan of how they’ve been given out. I’d like to see guys ‘earn’ these jerseys, the same way Hoke said Jabrill Peppers needs to ‘earn’ the coveted No.2 (even though it’s not a legends jersey). Jake Ryan earned his No.47 but other than that I haven’t seen much rhyme or reason with handing them out.

While I feel they deserve their legends jerseys now, Gardner and Funchess got them without making much noise in the previous season. If the Devin’s got their legends jerseys AFTER the 2013 season, rather than before, I’d have no problems with it. The fact that Courtney Avery got one upset me a bit, he was an average player at best and even that is being generous.

That said, I’m sure you can guess that I don’t think No.11 or No.21 should be given out this year. There are too many young and unproven guys on this roster to do so. This is not to say there isn’t anyone who could earn them, but no one has done anything to ‘earn’ the right yet. I’d like to see No.1 and No.2 be brought into legends status as well. No.1 for Anthony Carter and No.2 for Charles Woodson, as soon as he retires.

If we’re going to honor the legends of the past I’d prefer to see their numbers bestowed upon guys who have ‘earned’ it on and off the field, but mostly on it. If it has little to do with on-field performance, and middle of the road guys like Courtney Avery can get them, then I’d rather see the players vote on who gets them.

Derick banner
The legends jerseys have a chance to be a great tradition, but only if the players are forced to earn the honor of wearing them. If Michigan insists on giving out the numbers each year and the players wearing them aren’t stars, then the value of the legends jersey is lost. So far Michigan has given the jerseys to some players with lesser roles, and it has tainted the idea behind honoring these football legends.

With a young team taking the field in 2014, and a group of returning starters that largely underachieved in last year’s 7-6 effort, the Nos. 11 and 21 should be kept off the field until players earn them. If a wide receiver or cornerback steps up and leads the team to a great first half of the season, then a jersey should be awarded to that player.

If the program makes it clear that the numbers are earned, not given, then the legends jerseys will be a great tradition for Michigan football. If not, then it will represent just another gimmick put on by the athletic department.

Sam banner
While the NCAA is in turmoil right now and the future of college sports paints a somewhat murky picture, I think everyone can still rest assured that America loves watching our college athletes play far too much for these games to disappear completely. And in these beloved college sports, tradition reigns supreme. Every university tries to hold up their own traditions higher than any other institution’s. Alumni of the University of Michigan will be quick to defend the Maize and Blue in any battle, pointing out that we are the most winningest college football program in history, that Ann Arbor is the best college town God has ever created, that the Victors is the best fight song known to man, and that, quite simply, Michigan is unlike any other school out there.

One of the many ways Michigan has now decided to honor this glorious history is by assigning Legends numbers to a select few football players each year. I, for one, am a big fan. I don’t know of any other program in the country that reminisces over star players of the past in such a way, and though a small patch and a special plaque in the locker room might not seem like much, I really do think these legendary players and their families take great pride in seeing their legacies live on in the Big House. I also think it can’t hurt on the recruiting trail.

With that being said, there are a few “rules and regulations” that I would put into play if I oversaw the program. First, there needs to be some cap on the number of Legends numbers issued. There is no problem with designating a few players with the status every single year, but if the number of Legends jerseys continues to grow to 15, 20, 25 different players, it will lose its luster. I would cap the total number of jerseys in circulation at 10. In order to honor future Legends, however, there needs to be some room to make more though, right? Right. So every 50 years, every Legends number is officially put in the vault (or Schembechler Hall) and is available for re-circulation as a “regular” number. After those 50 years have passed, up to 10 more Legends, preferably representing as many different positions as possible, can be selected and issued with patches, plaques, and pictures and the cycle repeats. This way every Michigan football player will have the chance to earn this incredible honor; if it so happens that a player wearing a Legends jersey becomes a legend himself, that number will remain in issue but the patch will be replaced to honor the more recent standout.

I also think there needs to be some sort of regulation on when the jerseys are issued in relation to a player’s career. As it stands now, it seems that any player can earn the right to wear a Legends number at any point during his four years. Devin Gardner changed from No.12 to No.98 (Tom Harmon) early in his junior year. Jordan Kovacs mysteriously changed from No.32 to No.11 (Francis, Albert, and Alvin Wistert) well into his senior year. Going forward, I think the Legends jerseys should be designated to rising sophomores or redshirt freshmen. With this policy in place, the coaches have a full year to decide who is worthy of the honor based on their play on the field and their actions off it and the player will not have already established himself fully while wearing another number.

As far as the current available Legends jerseys go, I would like to see No.11 stay on the defensive side of the field and No.21 as a wide receiver for at least the near future. Sticking to my own rules, I will give No.11 to either Henry Poggi or Maurice Hurst, Jr., who apparently both impressed on the practice squad last year and will look to make an impact as redshirt freshmen this season, and No.21 to Jaron Dukes, an Ohioan just like Desmond Howard with great potential. When thinking of other potential Legends going forward, I can only think of one obvious one – No.2 for Charles Woodson.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Now that we’ve all given our answers, we’d like to hear from you. Do you like the legends jerseys? Do you agree or disagree with us? Give us your answer to the question in the comments below.

Third annual M&GB Hail Awards

Thursday, January 16th, 2014


It’s that time of year again – time to take one final look back at the football season that was and hand out our awards for the top players, plays, and moments. The past two years we posted this on Christmas Eve, but this year decided to wait until after the bowl game.

Team 134 held high expectations by most, coming off of a disappointing 8-5 season. With Devin Gardner at the helm, most assumed the pro-style, power running offense was about to take flight. And through the first two games there was nothing to make anyone think otherwise. Michigan throttled Central Michigan to start the season and then beat Notre Dame in style under the lights. At that point, Michigan fans were certain this team could win the Big Ten and possibly compete for a national title.

But back-to-back scares at the hands of Akron and UConn tempered those expectations quickly, and after a good win against Minnesota, Michigan suffered its first defeat of the season in quadruple overtime at Penn State. From there, it was pretty much all downhill save an offensive explosion against Indiana and a triple overtime win at Northwestern. Michigan State and Nebraska held the Wolverines to a combined negative-69 yards rushing. Iowa held Michigan to just 158 total yards and 10 first downs and the regular season culminated with a fantastic performance that ultimately came up just short against rival Ohio State. In the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Michigan was completely outclassed by Kansas State and the season ended with an even more disappointing 7-6 record.

The underachievement prompted the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges and the hiring of Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to the delight of Michigan fans everywhere. The doom and gloom of 2013 finally, briefly, gave way to hope for 2014. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s relive the top moments of Team 134.

To revisit previous years awards: 2012, 2011.

Harmon Player of the Year Jeremy Gallon

Everyone knew entering the season that Jeremy Gallon was in for a big year. He came alive at the end of the 2012 season when Denard Robinson went down and Devin Gardner stepped in at quarterback. But no one expected a record-breaking season.

His 1,373 yards broke Braylon Edwards’ single-season receiving record of 1,330 which was set in 2004. He also shattered the single-game receiving record (and the Big Ten’s) with his 14-catch, 369-yard performance against Indiana.

“For decades, the prototypical wide receiver at Michigan has been 6’3″, 210 pounds, and had an ability to outmuscle an opposing secondary,” said Drew. “Yet, despite being listed at a minuscule 5’8″, Jeremy Gallon completed of the best statistical seasons for a wide receiver in the 134-year history of Michigan football. Although opposing defenses knew U-M could not run the football and that Gallon would be Devin Gardner’s go-to target, Gallon still broke record after record after record.”

“Was the leader on an offense that struggled to do much of anything this season,” said Chris. “Was consistently reliable any time the team needed him.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Denard Robinson

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year Jeremy Gallon

Gallon finished the season with 89 receptions, 1,373 yards, and nine touchdowns. The next closest receiver, Devin Funchess, had 49 for 748 and six. No running back did much of anything this season, and only Devin Gardner could be considered for the offensive player of the year award in terms of production.

Gallon had big-time performances against Notre Dame, Indiana, Northwestern and Ohio State and came close to 100 yards in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He caught at least four passes in all but one game (Minnesota).

“Record setting year and pretty much the only consistent player on the team,” said Josh. “Without him we might have had a losing record.”

“Devin Gardner and Taylor Lewan each had great seasons that will be overlooked because of turnovers and Michigan’s record, respectively,” said Drew. “But this is an easy choice. Jeremy Gallon was Michigan’s best offensive player. Not only did Gallon have the most receiving yards and second-most receptions in a single season in school history, he also caught at least four passes in 12 of 13 games in 2013. On an offense that was wildly inconsistent, Gallon was one of the few constants.”

Votes: 7
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year Blake Countess

No Michigan defender truly stood out this season, especially with last year’s winer, Jake Ryan, sidelined for the first half of the season. But Blake Countess recorded a team-high six interceptions, including one in the end zone against Notre Dame to seal the win. He had a 72-yard interception return for touchdown against Minnesota and also picked off Braxton Miller.

Countess also tied for the lead among the secondary with two tackles for loss and recorded four pass breakups. He was named first team All-Big Ten by the media.

“After missing the 2012 season with a knee injury, there were some questions whether Blake Countess would be able to return to his form from his freshman season,” said Drew. “Thankfully, for Michigan fans, Countess not only returned to form, he improved upon it. Countess was one of the few playmakers on U-M’s defense in 2013. His six interceptions were tied for third-most in program history and the most by a Wolverine since Todd Howard’s six picks in 2000. And once Countess made those picks, he knew what to do with them, garnering 169 interception return yards – the third-most in the nation and the second-most in U-M history.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: James Ross III, Raymon Taylor, Desmond Morgan (1 each)

Previous Winners:
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Mike Martin

Yost Coach of the Year Jeff Hecklinski

After a season in which Michigan underperformed all around and offensive coordinator Al Borges was let go, voting for Coach of the Year was not an enviable task. But alas, one position group did perform well and that was the receivers, so Jeff Hecklinski gets the honors.

Jeremy Gallon set the all-time Michigan single-season receiving record and combined with Devin Funchess to set the record for most receiving yards by a duo in school history (2,121). In addition, Jehu Chesson developed into a solid blocking receiver.

“Hecklinski wins for me because his receivers showcased big play ability, were a consistent bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season, and laid some big-time hits (see: Jehu Chesson vs. Notre Dame),” said Sam. “Hecklinki’s unit was all the more impressive considering one of the two presumed starters, Amara Darboh, went down late in fall practice with a season-ending injury and didn’t play a game.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Greg Mattison (1), None (2)

Previous Winners:
2012: Greg Mattison
2011: Brady Hoke & Greg Mattison (tie)

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year Under the Lights II win over Notre Dame

Had Michigan converted the two-point conversion against Ohio State, that would have been the hands-down favorite, but instead the big early September victory over Notre Dame takes the cake.

The season still held high hopes and a win over the defending BCS runner-up in the final meeting between the two storied schools in the Big House was a surreal scene to behold.

“It was the second night game in the history of Michigan Stadium,” Drew said. “It had the largest attendance to ever witness a football game. And, most importantly, it was Michigan’s most complete performance of the season. Devin Gardner lit up the Fighting Irish for five touchdowns, throwing three to Jeremy Gallon, and the Wolverines’ defense allowed only two offensive touchdowns.”

“Gardner was both spectacular and spectacularly bad all in the frame of one half, Gallon was outstanding, and the season seemed oh-so-promising on that warm September night,” said Sam.

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Near upset of Ohio State (2)

Previous Winners:
2012: Last second field goal to beat Michigan State
2011: 40-34 win over Ohio State

Howard Play of the Year Fire drill FG to force OT at Northwestern

For the second straight year our play of the year involves a game against Northwestern. Last year, Roy Roundtree’s acrobatic catch to set up the game-tying field goal got the honors. This year, it is the fire drill field goal at Northwestern to get Michigan into overtime that gets top billing.

With 18 seconds remaining, trailing by three, facing 3rd-and-23, Michigan snapped the ball at the Northwestern 44-yard line. Devin Gardner dropped back and fired a bullet to Jeremy Gallon at the 26 near the right sideline. But he was hit immediately and couldn’t get out of bounds.

As the clock ticked down, the field goal unit ran onto the field. Holder Drew Dileo slid into position and kicker Brendan Gibbons simply took a few steps back as the snap went. He then booted it through the uprights sending the game into overtime where the Wolverines won.

“Incredible effort and execution to save the game, and essentially a winning season,” said Josh.

“Even though it shouldn’t have been needed after poor clock management by the Michigan coaches, the field goal unit did a great job of getting out on the field quickly and Brendan Gibbons did a great job to make a rushed, pressure packed field goal in a less than ideal situation,” said Chris.

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Desmond Morgan’s game-saving one-handed INT at UConn (1)

Past Winners:
2012: Roy Roundtree’s acrobatic catch against Northwestern
2011: Denard’s touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree to beat ND

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year Devin Gardner against Ohio State

This one may be semi-controversial since it came in a losing effort, but the vote was nearly unanimous. In the biggest game of the season, Devin Gardner put together a performance for the ages. Battling injuries, the junior shredded the Ohio State defense, passing for 451 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for another. Had he completed the two-point conversions it would have gone down as one of the greatest performances in Michigan history.

“Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon broke school and conference records with their spectacular performances against Indiana,” said Drew. “But Gardner’s 451-passing-yard, five-touchdown performance against one of the best defenses in the nation in Ohio State was absolutely sensational. Not only did Gardner shred OSU’s defense, he continued to do so after he broke his foot. After suffering the injury in the third quarter, Gardner fought through it, completing 18 of 27 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and was a two-point conversion shy of leading Michigan to its biggest upset win over its bitter rival from Columbus since 1969.”

“After a season of inconsistent performance following the Notre Dame win, Gardner came on strong against Ohio State to give the team and fans hope for a stronger senior season next year,” said Chris.

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Jeremy Gallon’s 14-catch, 369-yard, 2-TDs vs Indiana (1)

Past Winners:
2012: Denard recording 101% of offense vs Air Force
2011: Denard’s five TDs in win over Ohio State

Friedman Quarterback of the Year Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner struggled early in the season, but his decision making and accuracy improved as the season went on. He finished second in the Big Ten with 246.7 yards per game, as well as second in total offense (286.9) and fourth in pass efficiency. His total yards (3,443), passing yards (2,960), and total touchdowns (32) are second best in school history and he didn’t even play the bowl game. He had dynamic performances in big games against Notre Dame and Ohio State and committed a total of just seven turnovers in his final eight games.

“His heart and toughness helped lead this team, though not always consistently, to a winning record,” said Josh. “He was just shy of only the second ever 3,000-yard passing season in history and bailed out the team time and time again despite an inept line. Without Gardner this team would be 4-8, or worse.”

Votes: 7
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Heston Running Back of the Year None

For the first time in the short three year history of the M&GB Hail Awards, we are leaving one award on the table. It’s no secret that Michigan’s running game was subpar this season, and it wasn’t all the fault of the running backs, but four of our six writers voted to award it to no one at all.

“None of the three Wolverines that carried the football at least 30 times this season – Toussaint, Devin Gardner, and Derrick Green – averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry,” said Drew. “Only three Wolverines averaged more than five yards per carry: Dennis Norfleet, Shane Morris, and Devin Funchess – a wide receiver, a backup quarterback, and a hybrid tight end-wide receiver, respectively. Further, Morris notched U-M’s longest run of the season with a 40-yard draw on U-M’s final drive of the season. That is depressing.”

“When your leading rusher recorded 648 yards on 3.5 yards per carry and the longest run of the season came in a blowout bowl game by your backup QB, no running back deserves this award,” said Sam.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Fitzgerald Toussaint (2), Derrick Green (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Fitzgerald Toussaint

Carter Receiver of the Year Jeremy Gallon

What else is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Gallon swept the player of the year, offensive player of the year, and now receiver of the year awards thanks to a record-setting season. He also won this award last season.

His 1,373 receiving yards, 105.6 yards per game, and 6.8 receptions per game each ranked second in the Big Ten behind Penn State’s Allen Robinson. His nine touchdowns ranked third. He also recorded a catch in 39 straight games. Remarkably, he was edged out by Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis for first team All-Big Ten despite Gallon having better numbers in every receiving category.

“Gallon is the only Wolverine to be ranked in the Top 3 in Michigan’s record book for most catches and receiving yards in a game, season, and career,” said Drew. “No, not even Braylon Edwards, Desmond Howard, or Anthony Carter can say that.”

“What Gallon did in the Indiana game was incredible, but it was just one sample of his incredible season,” said Derick.

Votes: 7
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2012: Jeremy Gallon
2011: Junior Hemingway

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year Taylor Lewan

Everyone knows that most of Michigan’s struggles this season stemmed from the offensive line. It’s hard enough to break in the entire middle of your line in one season, let alone doing so with walk-ons and freshmen. But Taylor Lewan was not part of the problem. Sure, he let his emotions get the better of him against Michigan State, but he performed arguably better than he did last season.

For the second straight year, Lewan was named the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year for the Big Ten. His decision to return for his senior season didn’t pay off with a Big Ten title or a trip to Pasadena, but his mentoring of the young linemen will pay dividends in the years to come.

“It’s very difficult to evaluate individual linemen without a trained eye, and even more so when the whole line appears to be a sieve, but Taylor Lewan will be a top-15 NFL draft pick for a reason,” said Sam. “Re-watch a few games and only pay attention to Lewan and you will see why…and wonder how the line could be so bad.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: None (2)

Previous Winners:
2012: Taylor Lewan
2011: David Molk

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year Frank Clark

Michigan fans have been waiting for Frank Clark to break out, and while he still hasn’t shown his full potential, he did have a solid season on an underwhelming defensive line. He started all 13 games and recorded 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries. He was named All-Big Ten second team by the coaches. In the loss to Penn State, Clark had two sacks and two fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown.

“The one ‘bright’ spot on the line,” said Josh. “He was not always consistent, a theme for the whole team, but he showed progress and appeared to make some significant improvement as the season wore on.”

“In a six-game stretch from the Minnesota game to the Iowa game, Clark accumulated 9.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks,” said Drew. “In that span, Clark also recovered two fumbles, including one he returned 24 yards for a touchdown. Clark’s playmaking ability made him Michigan’s best defensive lineman in 2013, but Clark needs to showcase that ability consistently as a senior in 2014.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Willie Henry (2)

Previous Winners:
2012: William Campbell
2011: Mike Martin & Ryan Van Bergen (tie)

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year Desmond Morgan

This was the closest vote of all the awards, but Desmond Morgan narrowly edged out James Ross III. Morgan started all 13 games and finished third on the team with 79 tackles, recorded one sack and 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He’s not the most athletic player on the field, but is more often than not in the right place at the right time and fundamentally sound. His one-handed interception against UConn saved the game and was likely the difference between a winning season and a losing season.

“James Ross III may have had more tackles, tackles-for-loss, and sacks than Desmond Morgan, but Morgan made fewer critical mistakes throughout the season,” said Drew. “Morgan was the rock in the middle of the defense that Michigan could count on each game to make thumping tackles at the line of scrimmage. Ross III improved as the season progressed, but sometimes his aggressiveness would throw him right out of the play. Plus, without Morgan’s amazing one-handed interception against Connecticut, Michigan likely would have suffered one of its worst upset losses in school history.”

“More often than not, when Michigan stopped an opposing running back for fewer than four yards, Morgan was in on the tackle,” said Sam.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: James Ross (3)

Previous Winners:
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Jake Ryan & Kenny Demens (tie)

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year Blake Countess

Countess also won our Defensive Player of the Year award. He came back from a torn ACL and recorded 42 tackles, two tackles for loss, four passes defended, and a team-high six interceptions. He earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the media and second team from the coaches.

“Raymon Taylor led Michigan with 86 tackles, nine pass breakups, and added four interceptions of his own,” said Drew. “But Taylor had better statistics than Blake Countess only because opposing offenses consistently attacked Taylor’s side of the field, avoiding Countess in the progress. Not only did quarterbacks avoid targeting Countess’ side of the field, when those quarterbacks did try to attack Countess, he made them pay. Countess made great plays on the ball on each of his six interceptions, which are tied for the most by a Wolverine this millennium.”

“Countess seemed to always be making plays on the ball on his way to a Big Ten-high six interceptions and All-Big Ten honors,” said Sam.

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Raymon Taylor (1), None (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Jordan Kovacs
2011: Jordan Kovacs

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons had quite the career in Ann Arbor, going from a freshman unable to hit the broad side of a barn to Mr. Clutch and Michigan’s all-time most consistent field goal kicker. He finished his career having made 45-of-60 with a record 16 straight and a 141 straight extra points. This season he converted 15-of-20 field goal attempts and finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring.

“Northwestern game tying FG saved the season,” said Josh. “We’d easily be 6-7 without it.”

“After making only one of five field-goal attempts as a freshman in 2010, Brendan Gibbons made 29 of 35 field-goal attempts (82.9 percent) during his sophomore and junior seasons,” said Drew. “Gibbons was close to maintaining that conversion rate in his final season, making 15 of 20 field-goal attempts for a 75 percent conversion rate. And, most importantly, Gibbons oozed reliability at the position. Gibbons set school records for most consecutive field goals (16) and most consecutive PATs (141) this season. Further, Gibbons made three game-tying field goals in the final five minutes of regulation or in overtime in 2013. Gibbons may never have had had a booming leg, but Michigan fans will learn they took him for granted next season.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Dennis Norfleet (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Brendan Gibbons & Dennis Norfleet (tie)
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Jeremy Gallon (tie)

Hart Newcomer of the Year Jake Butt

For the second straight year this award goes to a tight end. Jake Butt stepped in as a true freshman and worked his way onto the field, ultimately becoming a key piece of the offense by season’s end. He started eight games and played in all 13, recording 20 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest game came against Ohio State when he caught five passes for 85 yards and a score. He also made a great one-handed touchdown catch in overtime against Northwestern.

“When Brady Hoke stepped on campus, he made it clear that tight ends would play a pivotal role in his offense,” said Drew. “In his first full recruiting class, Hoke reeled in Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams. However, both has had trouble maintaining blocks, which led to Funchess’ transition to wide receiver. Enter: Jake Butt. Butt, as a true freshman, was not only Michigan’s third-leading receiver with 20 catches, 235 receiving yards, and two touchdowns, but he also displayed an ability to block that Funchess and Williams have not. If Butt can add a few more pounds in the offseason, expect him to contend for All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore next season.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Derrick Green (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Devin Funchess
2011: Blake Countess

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year Jeremy Gallon

This is always a hard one to pick each year because there are usually two or three departing seniors that have left their mark on the program and will be missed. A case could certainly be made for Lewan here, but six of the seven of us went with Gallon.

When the diminutive slot receiver from Apopka, Fla. first stepped foot on campus no one could have imagined he would finish his career as one of the best receivers in Michigan history. But that’s just what he did. He broke Braylon Edwards’ single-season receiving record, caught a pass in 39 straight games, and set the Big Ten record for receiving yards in a game.

He finished his career third in receptions (173) and yards (2,704) in Michigan history.

“From RichRod’s leftover to Michigan record holder,” said Josh. “He was the one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing and depressing season filled with inconsistency and baffling play/play calling. He made an impact on the program that no one could have imagined and will remain in the record books for years to come.”

“Consistently counted on to make big plays, always stepped up when it mattered, provided good leadership for the rest of the team,” said Chris.

“In eight Big Ten games, Funchess averaged 4.88 catches and 72.75 receiving yards per game,” said Drew. “His improvement at wide receiver will allow Funchess to be Gardner’s top target in 2014. Funchess has become a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses, but he must limit his dropped passes next season.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: Taylor Lewan (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Mike Martin

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year Devin Funchess

Last season, Devin Funchess won the Newcomer of the Year award. This year, he adds the Most Improved Player of the Year award. While he burst onto the scene in Week 2 of his freshman year, he was one-dimensional and faded in the second half of that season, finishing the year with 15 catches for 234 yards and five touchdowns. This year, he was a consistent receiving threat all season, upping his numbers to 49 receptions for 748 yards and six touchdowns.

“His blocking left much to be desired but his ability as a pass catching nightmare match-up stood out,” said Josh. “A few too many drops for someone with his skill set but still made a major jump from 2012 to 2013.”

“Funchess had some bad drops toward the end of the year, but after finally moving to wide receiver for good, Funchess wreaked havoc on some opposing defenses on his way to a solid 49-catch, 748-yard season,” said Sam.

“In eight Big Ten games, Funchess averaged 4.88 catches and 72.75 receiving yards per game,” said Drew. “His improvement at wide receiver will allow Funchess to be Gardner’s top target in 2014. Funchess has become a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses, but he must limit his dropped passes next season.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Raymon Taylor (1), James Ross (1)

Previous Winners:
2012: Devin Gardner
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Fitzgerald Toussaint (tie)

Inside the Numbers: Beating the odds you don’t want to beat

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013


(John T. Grellick, Detroit News)

Michigan’s soul-crushing, quadruple-overtime loss to Penn State last Saturday has sent much of its fan base into panic mode. Despite Michigan being one of 17 unbeaten teams prior to last weekend, many fans and national media personalities have given up on the Wolverines after just one loss, some even going so far as to predict that Michigan will stumble to a 2-4 or 1-5 regular-season finish. The changes in expectations are not because Michigan lost to a far inferior team—the Nittany Lions were only a 2.5-point underdog. Instead, the changes in expectations are because Michigan was on the wrong end of the last-minute luck it benefited from in its first two seasons under head coach Brady Hoke.

What is last-minute luck? It is a term that embodies a rare combination of coaching miscues, lack of execution, bad bounces, and missed opportunities that allows a left-for-dead opponent to steal a win in the final minute. The more popular term for this type of collapse is “choking.”

In 2011 and 2012, Michigan benefited from such last-minute luck in two contests: Notre Dame in 2011 and Northwestern in 2012. This stroke of last-minute luck was not going to continue to work in Michigan’s favor. Sooner or later, there would be a game in which the Wolverines would fall victim to it. This is the nature of football, especially at the collegiate level. It happens to all teams. No team is immune. Unfortunately, it happened to Michigan in the worst possible way this past Saturday in Happy Valley.

After a sloppy start, which saw Michigan commit three turnovers and fall behind, 21-10, the Maize and Blue dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half, outscoring the Nittany Lions, 24-3, to take a 10-point lead. Proceeding from this point, Michigan encountered seven situations in which it could have sealed its second consecutive road victory for the first time since 2010. The Wolverines needed to capitalize on only one of these seven to escape with a 6-0 record. However, the last-minute luck got the best of the Wolverines, and the victory slipped through their fingers.

Here is a breakdown of just how much needed to go wrong for Michigan to lose this game:

Situation 1: Fourth quarter, 9:22 left, Michigan leads 34-24. Penn State ball

Breakdown: Penn State needed to cut Michigan’s lead to one score to stay in the game. For the second series of downs, which referees granted to PSU by calling a ticky-tacky defensive pass interference penalty against Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan, the Nittany Lions faced fourth and one on the PSU 47-yard line. If Michigan—which had allowed only one fourth-down conversion to opponents in six tries before this play—would have forced a turnover on downs, the Wolverines would have maintained a two-score lead for the win and remained unbeaten .

Instead, Penn State running back Bill Belton dove through the pile for a two-yard gain and extended the drive, which led to kicker Sam Ficken’s 43-yard field goal, closing Michigan’s lead to seven.

Situation 2: Fourth quarter, 0:57 left, Michigan leads 34-27. Michigan ball

Breakdown: Michigan lost eight yards on back-to-back plays, one of which was an untimely delay of game penalty, setting up fourth and 17 at the outskirts of kicker Brendan Gibbons’ range. Hoke had two options: (1) go for the win and attempt a 52-yard field goal; or (2) try to pin Penn State deep in its own territory with a pooch punt. If Hoke would have opted to go for the win, and Gibbons would have converted the 52-yard field goal, which would have matched the career long he set against Nebraska in 2012, Michigan would have secured a 10-point lead for the win and remained unbeaten.

Instead, given that field goals no less than 52 yards in the fourth quarter or overtime are good only 40 percent of the time, Hoke chose to have punter Matt Wile kick a pooch punt to force PSU to drive 90-plus yards for a game-tying touchdown with no timeouts and less than a minute remaining. However, Wile—who had dropped inside the 20-yard line 83.3 percent (10-for-12) of his punts that were snapped in opponent territory in 2012 and 2013—punted the ball one yard deep in the end zone for a touchback, which meant Michigan exchanged a chance to seal a win for only 15 yards of field position.

Situation 3: Fourth quarter, 0:50 left, Michigan leads 34-27. Penn State ball

Breakdown: With no timeouts and less than a minute remaining, Penn State needed to travel 80 yards in a hurry to score a game-tying touchdown and force overtime. Since 2003, only six teams have scored a touchdown under these circumstances, one of which was Michigan against Notre Dame in 2011. If the Maize and Blue would have prevented Penn State from scoring a type of touchdown that has happened only once almost every two seasons of college football, on average, for the past decade, Michigan would have maintained a seven-point win and remained unbeaten.

Instead, Penn State receivers Brandon Felder and Allen Robinson made three spectacular catches in four plays to move the Nittany Lions to the U-M one-yard line. Further, on the second and third of these receptions, Michigan cornerback Channing Stribling was in perfect position to intercept both passes, but he mistimed both of his jumps, allowing Felder and Robinson, respectively, to jump over him and make the grab as he was falling back to Earth. Penn State proceeded to punch in the first rushing touchdown Michigan had allowed on the following play to tie the game.

Situation 4: Fourth quarter, 0:02 left, game tied 34-34. Michigan ball

Breakdown: After a long kickoff return by Dennis Norfleet, Michigan reached the outer limit of Gibbons’ field-goal range with a few seconds remaining in regulation. Hoke sent out Gibbons for a potential game-winning, 52-yard field goal, which, as aforementioned, would have matched his career long. If Gibbons would have made the field goal, it would have been his fifth career game-winning or game-tying kick in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime, and Michigan would have earned a three-point win and remained unbeaten.

Instead, Gibbons’ kick was dead straight, but he did not muster enough power to push it over the crossbar as the ball landed a few yards short, sending Michigan to its third overtime game in the last 20 contests.

Situation 5: Overtime, game tied 34-34. Michigan ball

Breakdown: Penn State’s offense took the field to start the first overtime session and failed to score points when Ficken missed a 40-yard field goal wide right. Since 2007, in 287 overtime periods, the team with its offense on the field first has failed to score 79 times. Only 13 of those 79 times the second team has failed to score, too. Michigan went to the ultra-conservative strategy it deployed in the same situation in overtime against Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl: three straight runs in heavy formations and then kick for the win. If the same result as the 2012 Sugar Bowl would have occurred in Happy Valley, Michigan would have won and remained unbeaten.

Instead, the Nittany Lions blocked Gibbons’ 40-yard attempt—the first Gibbons’ field goal to be blocked in 25 games, dating back to Northwestern in 2011—and forced a second overtime.

Situation 6: Third overtime, game tied 37-37. Michigan ball

Breakdown: This will be the situation that will forever be burned in Michigan fans’ memories. Like the first overtime, Penn State went scoreless during the first possession of the third overtime, fumbling the football on a wide-receiver end around. Since 2007, no team had failed to score in an overtime period after the opponent went scoreless during the first possession of that period twice in one game. On second down, quarterback Devin Gardner threw a nine-yard hitch to wide receiver Jeremy Gallon that was spotted one yard shy of a first down, despite replay evidence that Gallon moved the ball past the first-down marker. On third and one, rather than using Gardner’s feet or arm to pick up a first down, Michigan handed the ball to running back Fitzgerald Toussaint—who averaged a school-record low of one yard per carry on 27 attempts—out of the I-formation, which led to no gain.

Although a first down would have allowed Michigan to shorten the distance of a field-goal attempt for Gibbons, he still had the opportunity to end the game with a 33-yard field goal from between the hashes. Under Hoke, Gibbons had made 29-of-31 field goals from less than 40 yards away (93.5 percent), including his last 22, before lining up for this try. If Gibbons would have continued his streak, Michigan would have won and remained unbeaten.

Instead, Gibbons missed a field goal from less than 40 yards away for the first time in 22 games, pushing it wide left and sending Michigan to its first ever four-overtime marathon.

Situation 7: Fourth overtime, Michigan leads 40-37. Penn State ball

Breakdown: Penn State faced fourth and one on the 16-yard line. Rather than attempt a 33-yard field goal to force a fifth overtime, PSU head coach Bill O’Brien opted to go for the victory. At this point, Michigan had allowed opponents to convert only two of seven fourth-down attempts this season. If Michigan would have stuffed the Penn State offense here, despite all the previous miscues and missed chances, the Wolverines would have won, improving their all-time overtime record to 9-1, and remained unbeaten.

Instead, Belton, who initially was stuck behind his offensive line, budged his way past the line of scrimmage for a three-yard gain to keep the Nittany Lions’ drive alive. Four plays later, Belton finished off the Wolverines with a two-yard touchdown run, capitalizing on Penn State’s first chance to win the contest.

Many of the critical issues that Michigan needs to fix—ball security, the performance of the offensive line, and offensive play calling—contributed to the collapse. It would be understandable if fans and media were pessimistic about Michigan’s success for the rest of the season because of these issues.

However, it would not be as understandable if the reason for pessimism was just the fact that Michigan lost. It took an unfathomable amount of bad breaks and last-minute bad luck to prevent Michigan from defeating a team it was favored to beat by only 2.5 points on the road, and becoming one of only 15 unbeaten FBS teams left. Don’t expect a chain of events like this to happen again to Michigan for a very long time, and certainly not again this season.

­­­­­­­­­­­­

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Indiana

1. Trends in the Michigan-Indiana series favor the Wolverines heavily. Michigan holds a 52-9 record against the Hoosiers and has won the last 17 contests. Further, Michigan is a perfect 18-0 at home under Brady Hoke, while Indiana is only 2-22 in its last 24 conference road games.

2. Despite turning over the football 13 times this season, which is more than the number committed by 93 FBS teams, Devin Gardner leads the Big Ten in total offense (285.8 yards per game) and most points responsible for (17.0 points per game).

3. Through the first six games of the season, Michigan has scored three non-offensive and two defensive touchdowns. Further, the Wolverines have scored defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games—Blake Countess’ 72-yard interception return against Minnesota and Frank Clark’s 24-yard fumble return against Penn State. This is the first time since 2004 that the Maize and Blue has scored defensive touchdowns in two straight games.

If you are interested in more stats, notes, and nuggets, you can follow me on Twitter: @DrewCHallett

Final Look: UConn

Thursday, September 26th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

With no Michigan football this Saturday, it means we have more time to analyze last week’s game. As we have done the first three weeks, let’s take one final look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s 24-21 win over UConn.

Three big moments

1. Desmond’s game-changing grab

No play was bigger last Saturday than when linebacker Desmond Morgan read UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer perfectly and snagged his pass out of the air with one hand. Michigan trailed by seven at that point and UConn had the momentum after stopping the Wolverines on 4th-and-2 from the Husky 23. A long scoring drive would be a dagger to a Michigan squad that had entered the game favored by 18.

After taking possession following the turnover on downs, UConn quickly picked up a first down, but left tackle Jimmy Bennett false started, giving the Huskies 1st-and-15 instead of 1st-and-10. Whitmer dropped back to pass, stared down his receiver and fired towards the left hash marks, about 14 yards downfield. Morgan dropped back, read Whitmer’s eyes, and leaped up with his right hand extended, snagging the ball and pulling it in at the UConn 41. He then zig-zagged his way to the UConn 12, giving Michigan great field position. Fitzgerald Toussaint ran it in on the ensuing play, tying the game.

Desmond Morgan changed the game with his fourth quarter interception (MGoBlue.com)

2. Gardner options to Toussaint

Trailing 21-7 midway through the third quarter, Michigan needed to find some offense. The fist two drives of the second half had resulted in a total of two yards, a fumble returned for a UConn touchdown, and a punt. UConn punted the ball back to Michigan with ten minutes remaining in the third and the Wolverines took over on their own 25. A 4-yard Toussaint run and a 13-yard completion to Drew Dileo moved the ball to the Michigan 42. A 12-yards strike to Jeremy Gallon got Michigan into UConn territory. Another first down advanced the Wolverines to the UConn 35.

On first down, Gardner threw an incomplete pass. On 2nd-and-10, he saw something in his pre-snap reads and checked into the pistol formation. Gardner took the snap and ran to his right, drawing the UConn defensive end. Just before contact, he pitched the ball to Toussaint who cut up-field at the 42 got a good seal block from Jake Butt, cutting to his left at the 23, dodged a diving defender at the 20, and raced the rest of the way into the end zone to pull Michigan within seven. It was just the play Michigan needed to get back in the game.

3. Gardger gets it done with his legs

On the opening drive of the game, Michigan forced UConn to punt. Michigan’s offense moved the ball to the UConn 33, but Gardner was intercepted. After forcing another UConn punt, Michigan took over looking to put the first points on the board. Three separate times on the drive Gardner converted a third down with his legs. On 3rd-and-1 from the Michigan 40, Gardner rushed for 14 yards. On 3rd-and-2 from the UConn 38, Gardner scampered for 11. A pass interference kept the drive alive the next time Michigan faced third down and then on 3rd-and-12 from the UConn 17, Gardner ran for a touchdown.

It surely wasn’t the way Michigan wanted to drive down the field, but it was the only part of the offense that was working. Four first downs on the drive resulted in: a Toussaint loss of one, a Gardner rush for two, a Jehu Chesson loss of one, and a Tousasint loss of two. Not gaining positive yards on first down meant Michigan faced a lot of third downs on the drive and thankfully Gardner was able to keep the chains moving despite getting no help from the traditional running game.

The numbers game

42,704: The record crowd that filled Rentschler Field for the primetime matchup

7-0: Michigan’s all-time record against teams currently in the American Athletic Conference

Sept. 16, 1995: The last time Michigan played a non-conference game on the East Coast (against Boston College)

Nov. 26, 2011: The last time Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 100 yards (against Ohio State)

1,961: Toussaint’s career rushing total after gaining 120 against UConn, surpassing Chris Howard (1994-97) and Rick Rogers (1981-84) for 23rd in the record books

30: The number of consecutive games in which Jeremy Gallon has caught a pass

1,659: Gallon’s career receiving total after gaining 31 against UConn, surpassing Junior Hemingway (2007-11) for 17th all-time

10: The number of consecutive extra points Brendan Gibbons needs to make to pass JD Carlson for tops in Michigan history

1-of-11: UConn’s third down conversion percentage. The Huskies had converted just 29 percent in the first two games

Drive chart
UC
UM
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UC
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UC
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UC
UM

*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Three observations

1. Defense first

Michigan’s defense starting the game has become a positive trend dating back to last season. On UConn’s first possession of the game, Michigan forced a punt just like it has done in all four games so far this season. In each one, the opponent started with the ball and each time punted it away to Michigan. The four opponents have combined for 16 plays for 57 yards on opening drives this season, an average of 14.25 yards per drive. This is something Michigan’s defense has been very good at the past couple of years.

Last season, Michigan started on defense in nine games and only Ohio State and South Carolina scored on the opening possession, which means since the beginning of 2012, only two of 13 opponents have scored when they started the game with the ball. In Hoke’s first season, 2011, three of six opponents that started the game with the ball scored on the opening possession.

2. Turnovers, man

Toussaint's 120-yard performance was Michigan's first 100-yard game by a running back since the 2011 Ohio State game (MGoBlue.com)

This will be discussed in more detail in tomorrow’s post, but turnovers seem to be a disturbing trend with Hoke’s teams. Michigan now has 12 turnovers through four games, which ranks 120th out of 123 teams nationally. Only Western Kentucky has more (15). Through the first 30 games of Hoke’s tenure his teams have turned the ball over 61 times. That’s six more than Lloyd Carr’s first 30 games and five fewer than Rich Rodriguez’s.

Turnovers let Notre Dame back into the game in Week 2 and allowed Akron and UConn to have a chance to win the games the past two weekends. With all the other struggles Michigan has, eliminating turnovers has to be atop the list of areas to improve during the bye week.

More to come on this tomorrow.

3. Toussaint

I’m not as down on Toussaint as much as others are. In this game he recorded his first 100-yard game since the Ohio State game in 2011. Yes, he has a lot of negative rushes so far this season, but he’s capable of making big plays as we saw in the 35-yard touchdown run and the game-tying touchdown run. He’ll never be confused for Tyrone Wheatley, but he’s also playing in an offense struggling to find it’s identity. Is it a power running game or a zone running game? It seems the personnel is still more suited for a zone running game at this point despite Hoke and Borges’ longing for a power running game. Toussaing just isn’t the right back for that.

Perhaps Derrick Green can evolve enough during the bye week to be able to step in and take some of the power running game carries so Fitz can focus on the zone stuff, but that may be too much to ask at this point. For now, Toussaint is reliable enough to keep as the every down back, he doesn’t fumble, and he’s sure to improve throughout the season as he gains confidence after returning from the gruesome broken leg he suffered last season.

Escape from East Hartford: Michigan 24 – UConn 21

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

With the game hanging in the balance and the offense struggling to find any rhythm, Michigan needed someone, anyone to make a play. Momentum was fully in UConn’s favor and the frenzied, record-setting Rentschler Field crowd could sense a monumental upset in the making.

It was deja vu for a Michigan squad that had staved off the unthinkable against a similar opponent a week ago. Now it needed a game changing play to do it once more.

UConn stood 1st-and-15 at its own 32 with the lead and the ball, having just stopped Michigan on 4th-and-2. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer fired a pass across the middle, but linebacker Desmond Morgan leapt up and snagged it with one hand. He raced 29 yards to the Husky 12-yard line and on the very next play, Fitzgerald Toussaint carried it in to tie the game at 21.

It was a play reminiscent of Charles Woodson’s grab against Michigan State in 1997 and Morgan may as well have reached in and stolen the hearts right out of the Husky faithful – and those from Columbus and East Lansing as well. While Michigan still needed another score and another defensive stop or two, Morgan’s play singlehandedly changed the momentum of the game.

Final Stats
Michigan UConn
Score 24 21
Record 4-0 0-3
Total Yards 289 206
Net Rushing Yards 192 47
Net Passing Yards 97 159
First Downs 19 12
Turnovers 4 1
Penalties-Yards 5-45 6-70
Punts-Yards 5-212 8-305
Time of Possession 35:47 24:13
Third Down Conversions 7-of-17 1-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-31 3-24
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 3-for-3 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Full Box Score

Following Toussaint’s touchdown, Michigan forced a three-and-out and Drew Dileo returned the punt the Husky 25-yards line. A 15-yard penalty on Jourdan Lewis brought the ball back to the 40, but Michigan was able to eat up half of the remaining time on the clock and add a 21-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal to take a 24-21 lead.

UConn took over with 4:36 remaining and got into Michigan territory before the offensive ineptitude bug struck them. On 3rd-and-12, a false start pushed the Huskies back five yards and on the ensuing play Frank Clark sacked Whitmer for a loss of 12. The last ditch effort to convert on 4th-and-29 fell three yards short and Michigan ran out the clock.

The game started out the way the previous three did, with Michigan’s defense forcing a punt on UConn’s first possession of the game. But unlike the previous three, Michigan wasn’t able to the first time it had the ball. Instead, a promising drive ended with an interception off a tipped pass.

After a UConn three-and-out, Michigan’s offense put together what would be its best drive of the night, going 69 yards in 11 plays. Devin Gardner ran it in from 17 yards out to put Michigan ahead 7-0.

UConn got on the board midway through the second quarter with an eight play, 56-yard drive to tie the game. On the first play of Michigan’s next possession, Gardner was intercepted again, this time on a deep ball to Jehu Chesson. UConn was unable to capitalize, but the Husky punt hit the leg of freshman receiver Da’Mario Jones and the Huskies recovered on the Michigan 9-yard line. They punched it in to grab a 14-7 lead.

Michigan opened the second half with the ball, but on 3rd-and-1, Gardner had the ball knocked out of his hands as he tried to pick up the first down. A UConn defender scooped it up and raced 34 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Michigan found itself down by two touchdowns in the third quarter to a team it was favored to beat by 18 points.

Desmond Morgan got a kiss from Brady Hoke and a hug from Greg Mattison (MGoBlue.com)

On the first play of Michigan’s ensuing possession, Gardner scampered 39 yards to the UConn 25, but a holding penalty on Taylor Lewan brought it back and Michigan was unable to get anything going from there. The defense forced a Husky three-and-out and the offense finally struck once again. On 2nd-and-10 from the UConn 35, Gardner checked out of the shotgun and into the pistol, running an option to Toussaint who weaved through the Husky defense for a touchdown.

The win keeps Michigan unbeaten on the season, but concerns abound after a second straight scare at the hands of one of the worst teams in FBS. The defense, however, isn’t one of those questions. UConn gained just 206 total yards, gained just 12 first downs, averaged 1.9 yards per rush, and converted just 1-of-11 third downs. In reality, only seven points can be pinned on the defense since the second touchdown started on Michigan’s 9-yard line and the third was a UConn defensive score.

Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, his first of the season, while Raymon Taylor, Jibreel Black, Mario Ojemudia, and Chris Wormley each had half a sack. Blake Countess had a pair of tackles for loss.

Michigan’s offense gained 289 total yards, 192 of those on the ground. Toussaint had his best game of the season with 24 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Gardner completed 11-of-23 passes for no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 19 times for a net of 64 yards, though when sacks are removed, he gained 106.

Michigan gets a bye week to heal up and work on the issues that have come about the past two weeks before returning home to face Minnesota on Oct. 5.

Stay tuned for more breakdown and analysis of Michigan’s escape from East Hartford in the days to come.