The 2013 Michigan football team suffered their first loss of the season in a quadruple overtime thriller against Penn State Saturday night. Wolverine fans saw their beloved team fail to build off their complete performance against Minnesota a week prior. Turnovers, mistakes, and missed opportunities that have plagued Michigan all season were finally too much to overcome against Penn State. Let’s see how each individual unit graded out.
It was a tale of two halves for Devin Gardner. The first half was all too familiar for Michigan fans. Gardner threw two inexcusable interceptions and then went on to fumble the ball away on a sack. While first half performances like this have rattled Gardner for entire games, to his credit he came out and really performed well in the last 30 minutes of regulation. Gardner ended the game with three touchdowns and 240 yards passing. He was also the game’s leading rusher, with a career high 121 yards.
There’s really nothing positive to say about this position. Fitzgerald Toussaint saw the bulk of the carriers like usual, and in his defense the offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but he did not display much vision, decisiveness, or toughness. The senior runningback was held to 27 yards on as many carries. Derrick Green did even worse on his three carries, rushing for just one yard. However he wasn’t helped by the offensive line any more than Fitz was.
Easily the offensive unit that performed the best for the Wolverines on Saturday. Devin Funchess picked up where he left off against Minnesota last week by adding another 100 yard game to his resume. The TE/WR hybrid also hauled in two touchdowns. Senior Jeremy Gallon quietly had himself a good game as well, catching seven passes for 95 yards and added a touchdown.
Offensive Line: D-
This unit was so disappointing to me. After a solid performance against Minnesota last week, the guys upfront really took a step back. They could not open holes for the runningbacks, and at times let the floodgates open in pass protection. If Gardner wasn’t a wizard in the pocket the Nittany Lions surely would have had more sacks. Senior left tackle Taylor Lewan being out for the entire second half did not help matters, but even when he was in there this unit played extremely poorly.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line did have a tendency to get pushed back, allowing Penn State to rush for solid gains on first down, but overall I think this unit played well. Some key plays include Jibreel Black’s big sack, the fourth down stop early in the game, and Frank Clark’s fumble recoveries. Speaking of Frank Clark, he easily played his best game of the season. This unit is asked to get pressure and most of the time they aren’t helped out by blitzes, so I admittedly cut these guys some slack.
James Ross III had a team high 10 tackles and caused the fumble that Frank Clark scored on. Desmond Morgan had 8 tackles and Joe Bolden had 6. I think this unit played solid for the most part, and no plays really stick out to me that were total whiffs by a member of the linebacker corps. Jake Ryan returned and he had a good performance in his season debut. As he gets healthier this unit will only get better.
While the secondary played a pretty good game for most of the game, the drive at the end of regulation that allowed Penn State to tie the game really left a bad taste in my mouth. Channing Stribling whiffed twice on balls that should have at least been batted away, but were instead caught and gave Penn State new life. Raymon Taylor and Jarrod Wilson both had interceptions, but it just wasn’t enough in the end. True freshman Christian Hackenberg had 305 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. I don’t put that statistic all on the secondary however, as I’m sure if the defense had blitzed more Hackenberg wouldn’t have been able to stand in the pocket all day until a receiver came open.
Special Teams: D+
Ugh. Missed opportunities, especially in overtime. I don’t really blame Gibbons for his long miss at the end of the fourth, but his missed 33 yard field goal in the 3rd overtime was enough to make any Wolverine sick. Another special teams play that was bad that might not be talked about was Wile’s punt that went into the endzone late in the fourth when Michigan opted to punt instead of kick a long field goal. That touchback was an absolute killer.
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