If you watched Michigan narrowly defeat Akron last week, then you saw more of the same on Saturday against UCONN. The Wolverines made it through their first road test of the season, beating the Huskies 24-21.
Despite improving its record to 4-0, Michigan has a lot to work on after the past two performances. Luckily for them, they have a bye week coming up before Big Ten play starts.
Michigan struggled on Saturday night, but came out on top. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) of the game.
Devin Gardner is a tremendous athlete, but he has suffered from the turnover bug ever since he took over as Michigan’s starting quarterback. In that span, only Johnny Manziel has more touchdowns from the quarterback position. However, Gardner has also turned the ball over more than any other quarterback.
I feel like I’m repeating myself and I am. Gardner had four turnovers last week and added three more against UCONN.
Michigan’s first drive ended when Gardner forced a pass and UCONN’s Jhavon Williams picked it off. The next drive Gardner rebounded and capped it off with a 17 yard TD run. Gardner threw another interception late in the first half which led to a UCONN touchdown. On the third play of the second half, a fumbled snap resulted in Gardner’s third turnover in the game, which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by Ty-Meer Brown.
Additionally, Michigan muffed a punt deep in their own territory which led to a Huskies’ score.
Despite the turnovers, Gardner led the Wolverines to another victory. He finished 13/25 passing for just 111 yards and carried the ball 19 times for 59 yards.
Another trend has been the play of the O-line, which didn’t perform well again against the Huskies. While Michigan ended up running for 173 yards, they had a hard time controlling the line of scrimmage which resulted in a number of negative yardage plays.
UCONN’s defense didn’t have a sack coming into the contest. Gardner was sacked 3 times on Saturday.
Senior captain Taylor Lewan said after last week’s game that the performance would be improved. I guess you could say it did a little bit, but it needs to be much better heading into the conference schedule.
Rumors of lineup changes on the O-line were talked about, but the same line played on Saturday.
Despite another below average performance, the line was eventually able to create some holes for Fitzgerald Toussaint to run through. Fitz was finally able to break out in the second half and ended up running for 120 yards on 24 carries and 2 touchdowns. The highlight of his night was a spectacular 35 yard run in the third quarter. He looked like the Fitz from 2011, a welcome sight to Michigan fans.
The defense came up big when it mattered most once again this week. They were forced onto the field thanks to the turnovers committed by the offense and special teams, but still allowed too much to the Huskies’ offense.
UCONN quarterback Chandler Whitmer was just 16/32 for 159 yards but made some big throws in key situations. He threw two touchdown passes for the Huskies.
It should be noted that Whitmer’s favorite target, Shakim Phillips was not able to play due to injury. This definitely limited their passing attack.
Desmond Morgan had one of the biggest plays of the game when he intercepted Whitmer’s pass in the 4th quarter. The Michigan linebacker reached up with one hand to tip it and catch it, then returned it 29 yards which led to a Toussaint touchdown on the next play.
Michigan’s run defense was pretty solid for the most part. UCONN’s run game has been nothing but pathetic so far this season and the Wolverines took advantage. On 25 carries, they managed just 47 yards.
The re-emergence of Frank Clark helped generate some pressure on the quarterback. Clark registered 2 sacks and Michigan had 4 for the game. It was definitely nice to see the other team’s QB get hit around a little bit for once.
Other game notes
– Matt Wile’s punts were much improved from a week ago, even into the wind.
– The Michigan offense did not break 300 yards. They only gained 284 (UCONN had 204).
– Rentschler Field saw its biggest crowd in its 10 year history at 42,704.
– Michigan has a bye next week and will enter Big Ten play against Minnesota on October 5. It is also Michigan’s homecoming that day.
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