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September 22, 2013

Report Card: Grading U-M in a 24-21 win over UConn

Gameday Grades 2013

Rushing offense


B- The push up front still wasn't good enough, head coach Brady Hoke admitted in the postgame, but there were positives. Fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint averaged 5.0 yards per carry and showed great vision on a 35-yard, third quarter option run for touchdown. He also found seams for 35, fourth quarter yards that resulted in 10 points - his own, 12-yard touchdown run and 23 more yards that set up fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons' game winning field goal in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner continues to be an enigma. He's done his best Vince Young impression in the last two weeks, making great plays with his feet - he grossed 106 yards Saturday on an array of draws, scrambles and keepers - but also losing 42 yards against UConn on ill advised scrambles. Freshman tight end Jake Butt's edge blocking was a positive.

Passing offense


D- Gardner continues to struggle with bad decisions, throwing two more picks and taking sacks (again, he lost 42 yards on the ground) when he should have thrown the ball away. He seemed to aim instead of let loose at times, not the confident quarterback he was two weeks ago in looking like an All-American at times against Notre Dame. He threw two more interceptions and missed open receivers more than a few times to the middle of the field, including a wide open tight end Devin Funchess on Gardner's first pick high off fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon's hands.
Protection also had something to do with it - Gardner was sacked three times in completing only 11 of 23 passes for 97 yards and no touchdowns, the first time this year he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass.

Rushing defense


B The Huskies had 49 yards rushing at the half and finished with 47, aided by 31 negative yards on four sacks from the Michigan defense. The Huskies only ran 17 times on designed running plays and managed 4.94 yards per rush on those, keeping the Michigan defense honest. Back Lyle McCombs led the way with eight carries for 38 yards, though he managed only nine on three carries in the second half.
The Wolverines' stingy, second half run defense forced UConn to the air, and a 1-for-11 Huskies showing on third down allowed U-M to possess the ball for nearly 36 minutes and mount a comeback from 21-7 down.

Passing defense


C UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw for 159 yards and two scores despite being sacked four times. He consistently found seams in the middle of the Michigan defense, particularly, and had three passes dropped that would have added to his totals. His longest completion - 26 yards on his last throw - was only three yards short of a first down on fourth and 29.
Whitmer had an apparent touchdown called back on a perfectly thrown ball, but he responded with a touchdown pass on third and goal from the 11 in the first quarter. That was his only third down completion, though, on a day in which the Huskies managed only one third down conversion on 11 attempts.

Special teams


B- Punt coverage was outstanding, with redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson laying a few big hits in the gunner role, while redshirt freshman kicker/punter Matt Wile was better. He put all but one of his kickoffs through the end zone and averaged 42.4 yards on five punts, leaving only one short (30 yards). He did have another kick out of bounds following a Michigan touchdown that gave the Huskies a short field, leading to a missed field goal.
A personal foul penalty negated a big, fourth quarter punt return for senior Drew Dileo, another negative, but Dileo was solid in fielding punts on a windy night. Fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons cashed in on a 21-yard field goal to provide the game winning points.

Coaching


C Preparation is part of the deal, and for whatever reason, the Wolverines are struggling against lesser opponents. They've got two weeks to figure it out before Big Ten play starts, and they won't be a player in a title chase if they don't figure out how to protect the ball.
Halftime defensive adjustments prevented the upset, led by a much improved pass rush. The defense's big plays allowed U-M to rally from a 21-7 deficit, and the offense took advantage in the red zone in going 3-for-3.
Still, untimely penalties and turnovers continue to plague Team 134. Until they're fixed - and so far, there are no indications that it's going to get better any time soon - Michigan will fall short of its goals. There's talent, albeit young, and still the possibility of significant improvement, but a long way to go to be a champion.



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