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October 17, 2012

Film review: Michigan offense vs. Illinois

Analyzing the Michigan offense's performance in a 45-0 win over Illinois ...

Best Drive: Drive One
Any time you can destroy the confidence of a fledgling team that is in the midst of a three-game losing streak with a big play, you take it.

The Wolverines picked up a first down on three-consecutive runs, and after a slot sweep out of the shotgun, in which freshman running back Dennis Norfleet was stymied for a one-yard loss, Michigan crushed the spirit of its down-trodden foe with a 71-yard catch and run on a play-action bubble screen to redshirt junior Jeremy Gallon out of the I-formation.

Blocks along the edge by redshirt senior Roy Rountree and a pulling redshirt junior left tackle Taylor Lewan created a lane for Gallon, and a quick chip block by redshirt junior offensive tackle Michael Schofield 20 yards downfield sprung him for the long score.

The offensive line created a sizeable push throughout the opening drive, and the big play capacity of U-M's athletes would spread out the Illini defense for the rest of the game.

Critical Drive: Drive Six
Michigan utilized jet motion on first down out of a the slot to once again spread out the defense, giving senior quarterback Denard Robinson space to sprint up the middle following a play fake for a nine yard gain on the first play of the drive. Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint was stuffed on second-and-one as the Wolverines lined up under center, but Michigan used a seven down-lineman, two back shotgun look to run an option play in which Robinson lowered his head and picked up four tough yards.

After suffering an injury in the first half, it was important to see Robinson show no fear in bullying his way up the gut.

The Maize and Blue would continue to utilize motion from the edge, using it as a play fake on 1st-and-10 to try to fool the defense, but Robinson threw an ill-advised jump ball to a well-covered junior wide receiver Devin Gardner that was almost intercepted. On the next play Michigan ran a read option, which Robinson read correctly and handed the ball off to Toussaint as the Illinois defensive end committed to the quarterback, and Toussaint was able to gain 12 yards off the corner.

The offensive line blocked this play well, but it was ultimately a chip block by junior wide receiver Drew Dileo on the middle linebacker and unrelenting stalk blocks on the outside by redshirt junior wide receiver Joe Reynolds and junior wide out Jeremy Jackson that created room for Toussaint.

Up 17-0 and moving the ball effectively with its opponent teetering, Michigan was one big play from completely blowing this one open, and received that play from the most exciting player on the field.

On a second-consecutive read option, Robinson kept the ball and careened toward the interior before making Illinois' defensive end look like a fool with a quick stutter step and reversed field with a quick cut. A 49-yard sprint later, Michigan was up 24-0.

The push up front was solid, and Toussaint made a key block 15 yards down the field - but Robinson was pure magic and made this play.

Worst Drive: Drive Two In a game where the Wolverines could not do much wrong, hearts in Ann Arbor dropped midway through U-M's second drive of the game.

The march started well, with Toussaint taking the hand off on a counter-trap, and Schofield made another key block, sealing Illinois' defensive end and knocking him into an assailing linebacker to take both out of the play. Toussaint took the corner and gained 12 yards before being taken down.

Michigan continued to march down the field, picking up two-consecutive first downs on a six-yard slant to sophomore running back Thomas Rawls and 33-yard skinny-post on the following play thrown into triple-coverage to fifth-year senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree. Roundtree climbed the ladder and made a grab on a Robinson jump ball that was reminiscent of many bail-out plays former wideout Junior Hemingway made a year ago.

Then disaster nearly struck.

On first-and-goal from the nine-yard line, U-M lined up in the shotgun with Robinson and Rawls in the backfield and Toussaint on the wing, and again utilized jet motion and a play action fake to Toussaint to spread the line of scrimmage.

Robinson burst through a hole created by a pulling redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski to gain eight yards. It was a fine play and set up a seemingly sure-bet second-and-goal on the one-yard line, but Robinson rushed off the field writhing in pain with a hand injury.

Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy was inserted under center, and Toussaint was stuffed on two-consecutive runs by an Illinois defense that brought the house, setting up a short field goal by redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons.

The Wolverines lined up in the gun and utilized motion to spread the field and create creases on every play prior to Robinson's injury, and once Robinson was knocked out of the game, were unable to gain yards while lined up in heavy, run-based formations.

Luckily, Robinson was able to return, but the last two plays of this drive perfectly illustrated how much his versatility means to this offense.

Position Grades:

Quarterback: A
Robinson was on point with both his arm and legs, totaling 287 yards and three touchdowns, and generally controled the pace of the game with both tough runs and big plays

He was knocked out of the game briefly with a hand injury, and Bellomy did not necessarily turn heads with his play, but he tossed two nicely-placed passes that were dropped - and was operating a vanilla offensive scheme.

Running Back: A-
I don't think the Michigan offense necessarily got Toussaint on track as much as offensive coordinator Al Borges would have wanted, but the redshirt junior was still effective at times (62 yards, one touchdown) and the strong play of youngsters Thomas Rawls (90 yards, one touchdown) and Justice Hayes (66 yards) should provide confidence in the unit moving forward.

Still, many of U-M's most effective plays were run out of the shotgun formation with the defense keying on the quarterback, and the inability to punch the ball into the endzone from the one yard line on the second drive is a source of concern.

Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line created a consistent push against the Illini front seven, and offered good protection and created vision lanes for Robinson when a key completion was needed.

It struggled particularly on the goal line when Robinson was out of the game, but athletic offensive tackles Lewan and Schofield made key blocks down field on touchdown runs, and the offense consistently benefited from pulling guards making huge blocks.

Wide Receiver/Tight End: A-
Gallon set the tone with his 71-yard touchdown on the opening drive, in which he did most of the work after the catch, and freshman tight end Devin Funchess made an acrobatic catch in the back of the endzone to atone for a critical first-half drop. This kid is an athletic freak, and is going to be a star. Roundtree also made a difficult catch in triple coverage to keep a drive alive.

More importantly, however, was the corps resolve despite the run-oriented nature of the offense.

At least three touchdown runs by U-M would not have happened without key blocks by the wide receivers, and they should receive just as much credit for the Wolverines' 353 rushing yards as the rest of the offense.

Drive Chart:


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 5 plays, 85 yards, 2:29
Starting Position: Michigan 15
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 9 plays, 65 yards, 5:07
Starting Position: Michigan 34
Result: Field goal


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 4 plays, 21 yards, 1:09
Starting Position: Michigan 17
Result: Michigan punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 9 plays, 68 yards, 3:56
Starting Position: Michigan 32
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 4 plays, 15 yards, 0:58
Starting Position: Michigan 42
Result: Michigan punt


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 6 plays, 74 yards, 2:49
Starting Position: Michigan 26
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 4 plays, 27 yards, 1:47
Starting Position: Illinois 27
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 6 plays, 22 yards, 3:00
Starting Position: Michigan 40
Result: Michigan punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 2 plays, 6 yards, 0:41
Starting Position: Illinois 6
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 6 plays, 25 yards, 2:40
Starting Position: Michigan 33
Result: Michigan fumble


Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, 2 yards, 1:48
Starting Position: Illinois 45
Result: Michigan punt

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 3 plays, 72 yards, 1:36
Starting Position: Michigan 28
Result: Michigan touchdown

Plays, Yards, Time of Possession: 6 plays, 40 yards, 4:14
Starting Position: Michigan 25
Result: End of game

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