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October 28, 2012

Report Card: Grading Michigan in a loss at Nebraska

Gameday Grades 2012

Rushing offense

C- Michigan moved the football decently in the first half, but once again the running game relied heavily on quarterback Denard Robinson. The senior managed 46 yards on 10 carries - and didn't lose any yards rushing - before getting hurt late in the first half, but he didn't have a complement.

Redshirt junior Fitz Toussaint finished with only 38 yards on 15 carries, and none of U-M's top three rushers managed a carry greater than nine yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy's 15-yard run in the fourth quarter was the Wolverines' longest of the day.

Michigan rushed nine times for -3 yards in the third quarter and three times for 17 in the fourth, with 15 coming on Bellomy's run. That's 11 carries for -1 yard in the second half minus the big play. The Wolverines finished with 95 total yards on the ground.

Passing offense

F Fair or not, the expectation is for the position - and that includes being thrust into a role for which one might not be ready. That was the case with redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy, who completed only three of 16 passes for 38 yards with three interceptions in spelling injured senior Denard Robinson. Bellomy didn't get much help from his receivers, who dropped (unofficially) four of his passes.

Robinson was decent in completing six of 11 passes before leaving late in the second quarter, but he missed redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint running uncovered on a wheel route in the second quarter that should have put the Wolverines up 10-7. The two quarterbacks combined for only 93 yards passing, though an overturn of an apparent 54-yard bomb to fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree was questionable, at best.

Rushing defense

B- Nebraska managed only eight yards on six carries in the first quarter and stood at only 38 yards on 13 rushes in the first half, 20 of the yards coming on two runs. The Cornhuskers managed only 13 yards on six, first down carries in the first half against a Michigan defense getting great push up front. The U-M run stoppers stood strong even in the third quarter, allowing only 30 yards on nine carries.

The dam broke, however, in the fourth. Nebraska controlled the ball for 11:34 and wore down the Michigan defense with running back Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez. Abdullah finished with 101 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, while Martinez notched a 29-yard jaunt as part of a 58-yard effort.

Passing defense

B- The Michigan pass defense allowed 166 yards and four plays over 15 yards. Three of them - and half of the total passing yardage - came on one drive in the second quarter, a touchdown march that put Nebraska up 7-0, capped by a 32-yard pass to a wide open Kenny Bell.

The Cornhuskers averaged 11.9 yards per completion, but only threw for 51 yards in the second half with an interception, due in large part to their success on the ground. Michigan defensive backs also suffered a pair of pass interference penalties, though one seemed questionable, and missed on a chance for an interception when a ball hit redshirt junior safety Thomas Gordon in the back in the end zone.

Special teams

B Redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons was the bright spot again, making all three of his field goal attempts. Included - a career-long 52-yarder that put the Wolverines on the board and brought them within 7-3 in the second quarter and a 38-yarder in the third quarter that made it a seven-point game. Sophomore Matt Wile missed short from 53 yards in the first quarter for U-M's only miss.

Freshman return man Dennis Norfleet was solid again in averaging 23.8 yards per kick return, though redshirt junior punt returner Jeremy Gallon misplayed a punt return that caused U-M to start inside its five. Junior punter Will Hagerup didn't have his best day, averaging 39.8 yards on four kicks.


C Michigan seemed headed for a 10-7 halftime lead in a game in which it controlled the clock in the first half before Robinson went down with his injury. It was clear early that the offense would struggle without him, and that handcuffed the staff offensively. The defensive intensity was solid throughout, with the exception of the second quarter touchdown drive, and helped keep U-M in the game, at least on paper.

Bellomy isn't at a stage in his career in which he can lead U-M to a win on such a big stage, and his receivers didn't do him any favors with the dropped balls. The coaches took a risk in moving back-up quarterback Gardner to wide receiver earlier in the year - it was only going to be the wrong move if something happened to Robinson. Something did.

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