The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers in their Big Ten opener by a score of 42-13 yesterday afternoon. The win gave Michigan their 5th win of the season, and it was made possible in large part due to the lack of turnovers (zero!) and the emergence of Devin Funchess. Let’s see how each unit for the Wolverines graded out.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. That has been the storyline for quarterback Devin Gardner this season. He came into yesterday’s game having at least one turnover in every career start. But against Minnesota he had none. It’s been the turnovers that has kept inferior teams such as Akron and UCONN in the game against Michigan, and without those opportunities Minnesota didn’t have a chance. While Gardner didn’t put up monster stats against the Golden Gophers, he managed the game very well and made plays when he had to. The one thing about Gardner’s performance yesterday that was somewhat lacking was his accuracy. At times he was bailed out by his receivers who had to make acrobatic because his throws were less than accurate.
Fitzgerald Toussaint seemed to be running with a purpose yesterday. He seemed much more decisive than he had been in previous games this season. He led the team with 74 yards rushing and added a couple touchdowns. Freshman Derrick Green had 10 carries, and while he only averaged 2.3 yards a carry, he had a pair of impressive runs, including a touchdown where he powered through multiple defenders.
Devin Funchess, welcome to your new position. The TE/WR did most of his damage on the outside against the Golden Gophers, amassing 151 yards on 7 receptions, including a touchdown. Jeremy Gallon had quieter afternoon than what he is used to, but his two receptions were pretty impressive. This unit bailed Gardner out a few times, and overall did their job very well.
Offensive Line- C+
While the offensive line is still a work in progress, the change on the interior seemed to pay off. Chris Bryant got his first start at left guard, and several times I saw him moving his man and he executed several pulls very well that sprung the running back. He did have one bad whiff that led to a sack, but we can chalk that up to inexperience. I thought the line performed better than they had in the previous few contests, but 113 yards against an opponent like Minnesota still isn’t good to be considered true Michigan football. Still, I think this unit will continue to take steps forward as the young guys on the interior gain experience.
Defensive Line- C+
The defensive line didn’t have a “bad” day, in fact they had a handful of big plays. They started things off with a bang when Jibreel Black forced a fumble on Minnesota’s opening drive. Both Black and Willie Henry had tackles for a loss and Keith Heitzman and Frank Clark got good pressure on the quarterback at times. The defensive line lost a few battles on third and short that was a little disheartening especially when you consider the fact that Iowa held the Golden Gophers to under 50 yards rushing a week ago. To make things worse, Ondre Pipkins was carted off the field with an apparent knee injury which will only hurt this unit’s depth if he’s out for an extended period of time.
The linebackers were active on Saturday, led by Desmond Morgan and James Ross III who led the team in tackles with 10 and 9 respectively. This unit really struggled when Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner escaped the pocket however, and several times I saw members of the linebacker corps miss tackles on the mobile QB. This will need to improve as there are a couple of lethal mobile QBs that they will be facing in November.
Any time your opponent passes for under 150 yards, the secondary didn’t have too bad of a day. While they did give up a touchdown to big bodied Maxx Williams, this unit had a pretty solid day overall. There were a few times that soft coverage came back to bite them, but that has more to do with the scheme of the defense than anything else. Blake Countess had yet another interception late in the game, one in which he returned for a touchdown to put the exclamation point on the win.
Special Teams- B
While this unit didn’t have any “OMG” plays, the coverage and return teams did a pretty solid job across the board. Matt Wile was
easily the special teams MVP yesterday, averaging over 50 yards a punt. This is an enormous improvement over his performances in the last few games which saw him shank several punts. If he can keep punting like this, the defense’s job will be much, much easier.
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