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October 12, 2013

Report Card: Grading Michigan in a loss at Penn State

Gameday Grades 2013

Rushing offense


D This grade gets elevated from an 'F' by redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner, whose array of scrambles, jukes and draws netted 121 of Michigan's 149 yards. Despite a number of different offensive line combinations (and without tackle Taylor Lewan, out for the second half with an injury), the running backs got nothing. Head coach Brady Hoke said they missed some holes, but he also lamented the line's targeting problems, a theme so far this year. Fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint managed 27 yards on 27 carries, while freshman Derrick Green carried three times for only three yards. Penn State's line isn't very good, but the Nittany Lions set the tone by dropping Toussaint for three- and four-yard losses on his first two carries. PSU notched 11 tackles for loss.

Passing offense


B Two more interceptions and a fumble from Gardner, all in the first half, had the Wolverines playing from behind. It was 21-10 at the half before the defense scored to make it 21-17 early in the second half, and Gardner was in business. He was nine of 16 for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the second half and was on the money, for the most part. Sophomore receiver/tight end Devin Funchess was the primary target again, catching four passes for 112 yards. He also dropped a pair in the end zone. The receivers continue to be a bright spot for the Wolverines, with very few dropped balls (freshman Jehu Chesson missed one, the only one that comes to mind). Fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon was good again, too, catching seven passes for 95 yards and a score.

Rushing defense


B Penn State averaged only 3.0 yards per carry with its backs and the Michigan defense forced a key fumble from Zach Zwinak to start the second half. Junior Frank Clark's scoop and score gave the Wolverines all the momentum in the second half and set the tone for a solid second half for the run stoppers. Penn State managed only 29 net yards in the second half and four overtimes with a long run of only 13 yards for the game. The Nittany Lions did move the ball a bit with running back Bill Belton in the fourth overtime, however, for 16 of the 25 yards. That included the game-winning touchdown from two yards out on first down.

Passing defense


D- Michigan's pass defense was at least adequate (minus losing tight end Jesse James - three catches for 41 yards in the first half - a few times) in the first half. Talented Allen Robinson caught only one pass for six yards in the stanza and Michigan finished with two picks. When it really mattered, though, the secondary fell apart on the last drive in regulation. They had two chances to make plays with freshman corner Channing Stribling, but one was taken from him and he jumped too soon on the other, setting up a one-yard touchdown that tied it at 34 with 27 seconds remaining. Freshman Christian Hackenberg completed 23 of 44 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, and he also had a handful of passes dropped or it would have been more. A pass interference penalty in the end zone set up the game winning score.

Special teams


C- Michigan's coverage teams were solid and punter Matt Wile was decent in averaging 40.8 yards per kick, though his pooch punt that rolled into the end zone with just under a minute remaining didn't help. Sophomore Dennis Norfleet's 34-yard kick return with 21 seconds remaining gave the Wolverines a shot at a 52-yard field goal in regulation. That one, though, came up short. Fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons also had one blocked and missed from 33 yards out in the third overtime, a chip shot that should have ended the game. Three chances to win from the normally reliable Gibbons, three misses - one of the shockers of the day.

Coaching


D Head coach Brady Hoke admitted his team missed opportunities at all positions, including with the coaching staff. The offensive line remains a carousel without cohesion. They took their foot off the gas on offense late and in each overtime, running with the backs on every first down but one to repeatedly set up second and long. One more first down in regulation and the game would have been over. A wasted timeout just before PSU's last score in regulation could have been huge at the end, and a delay of game penalty on Michigan's second to last possession with the Wolverines nursing a 34-27 lead prevented a chance at a game-icing field goal. A 23-second, 80-yard drive by the Nittany Lions, meanwhile, will live in infamy as one of the worst defensive sequences in memory. A road win that was there for the taking was given away.



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