Michigan improved to 5-0 with a decisive 42-13 victory over Minnesota in their Big Ten opener. The Wolverines were efficient on offense with no turnovers and they were 10-13 on third down conversions. Devin Gardner steadied the ship with a strong performance. He was 13-17 passing for 235 yards and one touchdown. Gardner also rushed for 17 yards and a TD. Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over and he made some big completions on third down plays.
Taylor Lewan: The Wolverines’ offensive line has been under heavy scrutiny this season and rightfully so. Things seemed to stabilize this week and Lewan was lining up in multiple positions which seemed to cause problems for the Gophers defense. Michigan’s prized All-American tackle asserted himself this week and the rest of the line was following suit.
Devin Funchess: He was a match up nightmare for Minnesota. Funchess hauled in 7 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. He also made a circus catch on a key third down play inside the Gophers five yard line. Additionally, Funchess secured two key third down receptions late in the game to extend a drive for Michigan. He threw his hat in the ring for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the ball 17 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He was decisive and played with an edge. The 5th year senior appears to be back to his pre-injury self.
3 Key plays
1. On the opening drive of the game, Minnesota tried to pick up a first down by running quarterback Mitch Leidner on a designed run. The Wolverines were all over the play. Jibreel Black knocked the ball loose on the tackle and James Ross III came up with the fumble recovery. The offense responded with a six play, all runs, 35 yard touchdown drive.
2. Late in the first half, Michigan called a timeout to set up a third down and 14 play from the Minnesota 24 yard line. The ensuing play was a Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess touchdown pass that gave the Wolverines a 14-7 lead.
3. Late in the game, Michigan was facing a third down and 12 trying to run down the clock on the Gophers. Gardner dropped back and fired what was perhaps his best pass of the season to Devin Funchess for a 46 yard gain and a first down. Four plays later Gardner scampered into the endzone to give the Wolverines a 35-13 lead and ice the game.
Honorable mention: Blake Countess’ 72 interception return for a touchdown.
Chris Bryant looked good on run blocking. Seemed to struggle at times in pass protection.
Derrick Green is starting to look good. He seemed to have a little more burst this week. He’ll be a big asset for Michigan on short yardage and goal line plays.
Michigan is in dire need of Jake Ryan to return. They need his playmaking ability on defense. Right now, there isn’t anybody that opposing offenses have to account for on every play.
Michigan completely shut down the Gophers rushing attack in the second half, holding them to just 24 yards on the ground.
Michigan continues to call very few blitzes on defense. When they do dial one up, they have been effective.
Blake Countess intercepted his 4th pass of the season and returned it for a touchdown. His 4 interceptions are the most a Michigan defensive back has tallied since 1989.
Desmond Morgan recorded a team-high 10 tackles, including 6 solo stops.
James Ross III notched 9 tackles.
This was the first game that Devin Gardner started at QB and did not turn the ball over.
Jeremy Gallon has now caught a pass in 31 consecutive games.
The Wolverines were 5-5 in the red zone, all touchdowns.
Michigan was flagged for just two penalties in the game for 10 yards.
The Wolverines won the turnover battle 2-0.
What it means
Michigan was staggered after nearly being upset in back-to-back weeks against Akron and UConn. They had a well-timed bye week and came out and played their most efficient game of the season. The Wolverines will head to Penn State next week to play a Nittany Lions squad that just lost to Indiana. Oh yeah, and Jake Ryan’s return is imminent. The moment he steps back on the field, the defense becomes much better.
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