C+ Just because it's better than the last two weeks doesn't make it great (this is Michigan, FerGod'sSake!). It was much improved, though. Freshman Derrick Green netted 79 yards, found some holes and fell forward, only losing five yards. Fellow frosh De'Veon Smith didn't lose any, also looking solid in averaging 5.1 yards per rush on eight carries.
Both Green and Smith missed a couple of cuts that could have led to big gains, but that will come in time. And Green will be better when he drops some weight. Both backs ran hard, though, cut well and didn't appear to be liabilities in pass protection. Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner's totals (19 yards) was skewed by sack yardage, but a fourth and four scramble on U-M's last drive and some nifty footwork in overtime, including a keeper for touchdown and a two-point conversion, were critical.
B- This one was like guessing on a number of answers on an exam yet still managing a solid grade - sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Gardner literally should have been picked off five times, but the Wildcats' defensive backs didn't make plays. Two of the errant throws could have gone back the other way for scores. Fifth-year senior receiver Jeremy Gallon dropped three passes, including the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime. Michigan was 2-for-18 on third down after going 0-for-13 in regulation.
Still, the conditions were awful with strong wind and ran that came down sideways. Completing 24 of 43 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown - a highlight reel one-hander by freshman tight end Jake Butt in overtime - is solid. Subtract a half grade for the pass protection that allowed five sacks.
B Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter did some damage on the ground, notching 78 yards and 4.1 per carry, but the Michigan defense adjusted to the Wildcats' option and allowed only 2.9 yards per carry. Treyvon Green, the most dangerous rusher, was held to only 30 yards on 11 carries with a long of six yards.
The Wildcats had managed 61 yards at the half, notching 28 on their first drive. The Wolverines stiffened in the second half and overtime, allowing only two net yards in the overtime sessions (aided by 14 sack yards).
B The Wildcats managed only 77 yards at the half through the air and 163 for the game, which of course included three overtimes. There was one big play, a 26-yarder, but only three passes of 15 yards or more. The Wolverines' defense got help from a handful of dropped passes, three in the first half that would have kept drives alive. Tony Jones was often the culprit for the Wildcats.
Northwestern quarterbacks still managed to complete 20 of 31 passes with one interception - the game clincher by fifth-year senior Thomas Gordon after he let one slip away the play before. There weren't many shots deep downfield.
A Fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons' 44-yarder to send it to overtime with a half second remaining was one of Michigan's best-ever special teams plays. The field goal team was ready to go, the snap and hold from Jareth Glanda and Drew Dileo, respectively, were incredible given the conditions. Gibbons had a four-for-four day in crazy weather conditions.
Sophomore kick return man Dennis Norfleet helped the Wolverines win the battle for hidden yardage, returning two kicks 55 yards, while junior punter/kickoff man Matt Wile was outstanding. He got great distance on his kicks even into the wind and his punts including three downed inside the 20, one at the one-yard-line that changed field position.
Gallon and sure handed senior Dileo were very good fielding punts in lousy conditions.
C+ The negatives - a questionable decision to go on fourth and two instead of tie the game with a field goal late and an offense that still can't get out of its own way at times - are countered by two things. One, the defense was very good for much of the game. It didn't give up a touchdown in regulation, allowing only nine points, and stiffened when the offense faltered.
Two? This Michigan team came to play when it could have gone through the motions. The Wolverines were essentially out of the Big Ten race heading in, but they played together and with a sense of chemistry we hadn't seen in a while. They were ready to play against a team that, despite being 0-5 in conference play, smelled blood and was ready to exorcise a season's worth of demons.
Coach Dan Ferrigno's special teams, too, bump the grade. His unit was solid in all phases.