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December 1, 2013

Report Card: Grading Michigan in a loss to Ohio State

Gameday Grades 2013

Rushing offense


B+ Finally, some life in the running game. All three Michigan running backs who got carries had their moments, led by a 38-yard run from freshman De'Veon Smith on which he - yes - broke a couple of tackles. Frosh Derrick Green got the most work, carrying 12 times for 47 yards. The most startling statistic - none of the backs lost yardage, the first time all year that's been the case.
Smith only notched 19 yards on his other six carries, but he ran hard. Fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint carried five times for 33 yards and a score, including a 16-yard run. A deadly passing game with redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner opened things up for the running backs.

Passing offense


A- Gardner was outstanding, but for one play - the final interception on a two-point conversion attempt. Ohio State called timeout after getting a look at the formation, and the redshirt junior didn't seem to be put in the best position to succeed when the Wolverines came back out with the same look.
Other than that, the quarterback was nearly flawless while struggling to move on what appeared to be a bad leg. He completed 32 of 45 passes for 451 yards and four touchdowns and usually had time to throw (though he was sacked three times). Fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon (175 yards and one touchdown), freshman tight end Jake Butt (five for 85 and a score) and senior Drew Dileo (five for 60 and a touchdown) all had big games.
Sophomore Devin Funchess' drops, one a sure touchdown pass, continue to be head scratchers.

Rushing defense


F Michigan's rush defense was bad in the first half, allowing 197 yards and 7.6 yards per carry. It was worse in the second, disappointing in that any adjustments didn't work. The Buckeyes rarely threw because they didn't have to, moving the ball at will on the ground. Quarterback Braxton Miller averaged 9.6 yards and scored three touchdowns on 16 carries, while future NFL back Carlos Hyde gained 226 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per rush.
Ohio State rushed nine times for 79 yards in the fourth quarter, six for 65 (every play) on the game-winning touchdown after the Wolverines had tied it at 35.

Passing defense


C+ Miller only threw 15 times, primarily because he didn't have to put it up given the Buckeyes' ground success. He did find Devin Smith for the typical long passing touchdown against the Wolverines, 53 yards in the first quarter on a third and long that stole momentum and proved critical.
Miller completed only six passes, but he still threw for 133 yards and two scores against one pick that essentially worked as a punt. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, son of first class former Michigan basketball captain Paul (figure that one out), was a weapon for the Buckeyes, catching two passes for 59 yards and a score.

Special teams


B- Playing without fifth-year senior Brendan Gibbons (injury) might have factored into head coach Brady Hoke's decision to go for a fourth and two instead of kicking a field goal in the third quarter that would have cut into a 28-21 OSU lead. Junior Matt Wile missed the kick just after Hoke called timeout and opted to go for the first down. Wile's one gaffe, a kick out of bounds after Michigan had tied it in the fourth quarter, wasn't critical. It gave the Buckeyes 10 extra yards, but the way they were moving it on the ground it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
Wile had a good day punting, averaging 44 yards per kick, and sophomore return man Dennis Norfleet was deprived a 90-plus yard return on one of the worst holding calls you'll see. De'Veon Smith was flagged for essentially pancaking a defender, negating the big runback.

Coaching


B The Wolverines were ready to play and lost what essentially amounted to a 50-50 game against a team that might well play in the national championship game. The offensive game plan was outstanding, including throwback screens against an aggressive OSU front and shots downfield - only the final play call on a two-point conversion attempt raised eyebrows, and only because the Wolverines didn't change the play after the Buckeyes' coaches got a look at it.
The grade goes down because of the defense, which was inexplicably bad in allowing Miller and Hyde to run all over it. Yes, those two are dynamic players and yes, the Wolverines were missing linebacker James Ross III (injured), but the interior line was dominated and the Buckeyes ran through them like they weren't there at times. Big plays (again in this game - this time a pair of 53-yard scores) accounted for a fifth of OSU's offense.
All in all a great effort from a team that could have, probably should have, accomplished more than 7-5 this season.



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