October 19, 2013

Borton's Blog: Standing tall

Michigan has featured more than its share of lanky, high-rising wide receivers down through the years. Braylon Edwards, David Terrell, Marquise Walker and many more towered over defensive backs like Yao Ming over munchkins.

Wisconsin trotted out Lee Evans, Michigan State Charles Rogers, and Ohio State David Boston. All rose to great heights in the Midwestern football wars.

None of them ever stood as tall as 5-8 Jeremy Gallon did against Indiana. None of them - or anyone else in the history of Big Ten football - soared to a mind-boggling 369 yards receiving in one game.

Gallon slashed through the drizzle in a soaked Michigan Stadium like a shark through chum. He's tough to spot as compact cornerback killer, but against Indiana, he might as well have been invisible.

He gathered in 14 Devin Gardner throws in Michigan's video game-like 63-47 win over the Hoosiers. Time after time, he ran by defenders strapped into lead shoes, going long, curling short, and dropping jaws not only in the stands but also on his own sideline.

"I felt like I was playing NCAA Football," noted running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who ran for 151 yards himself. "It was just crazy. People underestimate him, but you can't leave him one on one, because he's going to make big plays like that."

Asked if he's ever gamed his way to such a gaudy tally, Toussaint offered: "Gallon might have took the cheese today. It was outstanding. Just to have 369 yards in one game is crazy."

"He has the same skills as all of the taller receivers," Gardner insisted. "He can go get the high ball, he's really quick in and out of his cuts, and it's a terror for opposing defenses."

Gallon lacked only a hockey mask and some creepy music to make the terror over the Hoosiers complete. As it was, he scared the crimson right out of the visitors, who got creamed by a couple of the greatest performances in Michigan Stadium history.

Gardner will draw plenty of plaudits of his own, for a Michigan-record 584 total yards, 503 of which came through the air, and five touchdowns. The redshirt junior quarterback insisted he had another toss reserved for Gallon, just in case the Wolverines needed it.

One more moonshot to Gallon would have rendered the wideout's total the greatest single-game effort in FBS history. He simply looked unstoppable, and entered the game with that mindset.

"My coach teaches us to play like that," Gallon acknowledged. "You have to be cocky at that position. You have to feel that no one can guard you. I came out with that confidence, to feed that to the rest of the team. With Devin doing the same thing, I felt the energy."

The Hoosiers felt it, every time they surged back in a game in which seven-yard gains felt like tackles-for-loss. They'd race to the end zone, only to see the floodgates open and another Gallon come pouring through.

"With both him and [Devin] Funchess out there … we kind of loaded up to stop the run, and they get one-on-one," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "If we didn't blitz, the protection was all day with their gap-max protection, and they'd run their boot pull-up scheme, and that worked as well. He had a huge game, and Funchess did as well; 360 yards is ridiculous."

The other head coach thought it was just right, Brady Hoke noting: "He's such a great competitor, runs great routes, find the open spaces. Sure handed … Jeremy is a tough guy that really is a little slippery at times. Yards after catch are usually decent with him. He's a total wide receiver. If he wasn't catching it, he's going to be working his tail off blocking."

He worked his tail off in the week following Michigan's crushing loss at Penn State blocking out the memory of that game. The soft-spoken Gallon said even less in the days leading up to his receiving demolition of the Hoosiers, but did more.

None of it involved lightheartedness.

"I came out with the focus all through practice," Gallon recalled. "I barely smiled. I barely talked to anybody. I was always in film. My focus was just on another level. I'm going to continue to do that, because of the results of tonight."

The Wolverines would do well to follow his lead. He's far from the largest on the roster, but he'll bring the biggest balled-up fist to the fight the rest of the way.

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