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January 2, 2013

Report Card: Grading U-M in a loss to South Carolina

Gameday Grades 2012

Rushing offense

B- Senior Denard Robinson went out with a nice game, rushing for 100 yards from the running back and quarterback positions in averaging 4.3 yards per carry in his Michigan swan song, but he never broke the big one (long of 15). U-M's biggest run, in fact, came on a 19-yard quarterback sneak by junior quarterback Devin Gardner, who netted 24 total.

Michigan's other running backs were stymied, and their pass blocking efforts weren't as stellar as they've been this year. Senior Vincent Smith managed only six yards on six carries, while redshirt freshman Justice Hayes carried twice for three yards.

Passing offense

C+ The positives - redshirt junior receiver Jeremy Gallon would be the biggest, hauling in 145 yards and two scores on nine receptions, while Gardner threw for three scores. He completed only 50 percent of his passes, however, and missed fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree on makeable plays, Gallon on a potential big play and on two other throws past the sticks.

Gardner was solid in keeping some plays alive, including a seven-yard touchdown to junior Drew Dileo, and remained poised despite being pressured and sacked three times. It wasn't his best game from an accuracy standpoint, but it was a solid performance against a very good defensive team.

Rushing defense

B+ South Carolina's game plan was never to run the ball, and they rarely tried. Instead they looked for big plays in the passing game, and they were there to be had. Other than one run, a 64-yarder by quarterback Connor Shaw, the Wolverines held the Gamecocks in check. South Carolina managed only 21 yards on 16 carries other than that big run, including one yard from the running backs.

Passing defense

F Michigan played without its top two cornerbacks in injured Blake Countess and suspended J.T. Floyd. While head coach Brady Hoke insisted Floyd's absence didn't play a part - well, it wouldn't have hurt having one more experienced corner on the field. The pass defense was the weakest part of the game, and it was more than just coverage. U-M didn't mount a consistent rush up front.

Still, the defensive backs were the culprits on the biggest plays, including touchdowns of 56 and 31 yards. A blown coverage with only seconds remaining was the backbreaker and the difference in the game. Hold there and the Wolverines force a field goal, at that point a 50-50 proposition. Instead, South Carolina pulled out the win with an improbable, 32-yard touchdown to the middle of the field.

Special teams

C+ There was plenty to like about the special teams. Redshirt junior kicker Brendan Gibbons was outstanding, as usual, making field goals from 39 and 40 yards, sophomore Matt Wile hit a critical 52-yard field goal and punted extremely well (averaging 48 yards per punt) and the returners (Gallon on punts and freshman Dennis Norfleet, junior Drew Dileo on kicks) were solid.

The Gamecocks' Ace Sanders' 63-yard punt return for touchdown, however - on a great punt by Wile - was one of the game's critical plays. U-M also failed on a pair of two-point conversions, one at the end of the third quarter in which the Wolverines should have kicked an extra point.


B The offensive game plan was imaginative, offensive coordinator Al Borges mixing it up between run and pass, and Hoke was gutsy almost to a fault in going for fourth downs and fakes on special teams. The Wolverines left it all on the field and nearly pulled the upset against a talented team.

Pass defense, however, was the backbreaker, and some blitzes that didn't get home were critical. The defenders left too many plays on the field, especially on the last drive in which they missed a tackle on a sack and left a receiver uncovered for the game winning touchdown.

Stealing from a solid post on The Fort: "They installed a great game plan on offense, attempted to use different personnel and fronts in the front seven to cover obvious back-end deficiencies on defense, had one special teams lapse (that was a great punt by the way; distance and hang time) and still lost the game on a gutsy call and throw by their backup QB with 11 seconds left."

Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.

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