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December 29, 2013

Report Card: Grading Michigan in a loss to Kansas State

Gameday Grades 2013

Rushing offense


F It's one thing to not be able to move the ball on the ground consistently. It's another to literally not be able to move it at all.
Michigan mustered only 65 rushing yards, and 54 of them came on two plays - a 40-yard quarterback draw from freshman quarterback Shane Morris in the fourth quarter, when the game was no longer in doubt, and a 14-yard reverse to wide receiver Devin Funchess. Michigan's running backs were a non-factor, as they've been most of the year. They managed 13 yards on eight carries with a long run of only six yards by freshman De'Veon Smith.

Passing offense


C+ Morris was pretty good for his first start, completing 24 of 38 passes for 196 yards with a late pick. He showed better poise than expected in the pocket and got decent protection, and he was able to feel the pressure and step away from it many times. He had a few balls dropped, including one from Funchess on third down that killed a drive, but surveyed the field well and seemed to go through his progressions.
There wasn't an abundance of open receivers, and that didn't help the cause. Still, Morris connected on a number of passes and led the Wolverines to scores (two field goals) on his first two possessions as a starter. Not a bad debut. And fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon did manage nine catches for 89 yards.

Rushing defense


D+ The Kansas State offense didn't complete run through the Michigan defense, in part because it didn't have to - it threw at will. The biggest running play was a third down scramble from quarterback Jake Waters that kept a first quarter drive alive, while running back John Hubert notched 80 yards and a score in averaging five yards per carry. When the defensive line wasn't getting pushed around, the Michigan linebackers were often filling the wrong gaps.
A telling statistic: Hubert didn't lose a single yard rushing, indicating he had plenty of time to get started and wasn't contacted behind the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats controlled both lines, in fact, which is how you win a football game.

Passing defense


F Kansas State's Tony Lockett had his way with whoever was covering him, usually junior Raymon Taylor. He got the better of redshirt sophomore corner Blake Countess on a double move - something Countess has struggled with since the end of his freshman season for a 29-yard score that put the Wildcats up 14-3 in the first quarter.
Quarterback Jake Waters, the game MVP, threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns, including 10 completions for 116 yards to Lockett. The three biggest passing plays went for 46, 35 and 29 yards, though the 46-yarder was to a fullback over the head of linebacker Desmond Morgan.
Regardless, it was a dismal performance from the Wolverines' back four.

Special teams


C- Junior kicker Matt Wile did a solid job punting (40.8 avg.) and made his only two, short field goal attempts, but that was expected. The Wolverines gave up two kick returns beyond the 40-yard line, including a 40-yarder from Lockett and got only one decent return of their own (a 33-yard kick return from sophomore Dennis Norfleet).
Punt coverage was good, but that's the extent of the praise for a group that's been inconsistent much of the year.

Coaching


D- Offensive coordinator Al Borges put Morris in a position to succeed early in the game, getting him comfortable with short passes, screen passes, reverses and the like. With no running game to speak of, there wasn't much chance the Wolverines were going to move the ball up and down the field at will - and they didn't. Once Kansas State adjusted in the second half, the offense became stagnant, as expected. There's not one thing this group does particularly well and can fall back on.
The defense, meanwhile, was offensive. It was going to be hard for Michigan to win after KSU reached 21 points, which the Wildcats did in the first half. U-M's experienced defensive backs struggled mightily with Lockett, giving up a number of big plays, and the defensive line and linebackers made many of the same mistakes they had all year in allowing far too many yards rushing.
More than anything, though, the team seemed to lack emotion, didn't seem to play with a sense of urgency and was flat. It was a disheartening end to a terribly disappointing year, and the offseason and the 2014 campaign is a critical one to prove it was an aberration.



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