Well, the Michigan football season is finally over. After months of inconsistency and frustration, the Wolverines wind up with an unspectacular 7-6 record after their loss to Kansas State 31-14. The Wildcats dominated the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and it was over early.
Probably one of the only the positive things you could take from this game was the performance from Shane Morris. No, he didn’t have a great game, but he looked poised and confident. His first half was pretty impressive, as he connected on 15 of his 19 pass attempts. I personally didn’t see any “Devin Gardner for WR in 2014” comments during the course of the game, which came as a surprise to me. Although Morris held his own, I still think Gardner is the guy in 2014. It doesn’t hurt to have a solid backup option in Morris, though.
Morris would finish 24-for-38 passing for 196 yards and an interception. Not great numbers, but he made some pretty good throws and not so good ones. For some reason, Kansas State didn’t blitz a whole lot, which is something I would have done to a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start.
One thing should be made clear; Shane Morris wasn’t the reason Michigan lost this game. If a healthy Devin Gardner plays, I’m still not sure Michigan could have won. It was just ugly.
SHANE MORRIS: Leading Rusher
Yep, your left-handed, pocket-passing freshman quarterback was the team’s leading rusher. Morris ran the ball four times for 43 yards, most of which coming on a 40-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter on Michigan’s only touchdown drive of the game. The 40-yard run was also Michigan’s LONGEST RUN OF THE SEASON.
Devin Funchess ran the ball on two reverses early in the game. The first one worked well, as he ran for 14 yards. Apparently the success on that play made Al Borges believe that reverses would continue to work, as we saw a number of them throughout the game. Funchess would get stuffed on his next attempt and Jeremy Gallon was stopped five yards behind the line early in the game.
For the Michigan running backs, they combined for 13 yards on eight carries. DeVeon Smith carried four times for seven yards, Derrick Green once for five, Fitz Toussaint twice for two, and Justice Hayes lost a yard on his only carry. Toussaint did score a touchdown in his final game at Michigan, which was kind of nice for him. The combination of a quick two-score deficit and just the inability to run the ball forced Michigan to pass the ball 38 times with a freshman quarterback and not even try to run it.
The fact that Derrick Green had one carry blows my mind. Nothing more really needs to be said at this point about the Wolverines’ struggles running the ball. Next year Michigan will lose its two best offensive lineman in Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, forcing even more of the young guys to step up. The interior line will have a year under its belt, but a lot needs to be done to get this team up to its potential. Backs like Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, along with Drake Johnson (missed most of the season with a torn ACL) should have more success next season. Hopefully.
The only other bright spot for Michigan was Jeremy Gallon. His nine catches for 89 yards broke two Michigan records previously held by Braylon Edwards in the game. He broke Edwards’ consecutive games with a catch streak, which now stands at 39 games. Gallon also surpassed Edwards’ mark of receiving yards in a season, finishing with 1,373 yards.
Gallon has been a really fun guy to watch in his Michigan career, especially this season. His 369 yards against Indiana and his spinning touchdown catch Under The Lights against Notre Dame were special. It’s sad that we won’t be able to see more of this in years to come, but I just hope someone gives him a chance in the NFL. Despite his size, he is an extremely talented receiver.
The future without Jeremy Gallon (and senior Drew Dileo) isn’t dismal for the Michigan receiving corps. They will return tight end turned receiver Devin Funchess, who really needs to work on his dropped passes. Seriously, the one on third down last night was inexcusable for a guy that won the Big Ten Tight End of the Year Award. Along with Funchess, Michigan also returns Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson who both broke out late in the season.
The defense was arguably the team’s strength, up until the last two games of the season. Ohio State torched them and Kansas State also had little trouble scoring points, especially early. The Wildcats’ Jake Waters threw for 271 yards and completed 21 of his 27 passes. Standout wide receiver Tyler Locket hauled in 10 passes for 113 yards and three first half touchdowns. His fourth touchdown was dropped in the end zone later in the game, which made the score a little closer than what it felt like.
The secondary seemingly lost Lockett and other Kansas State receivers and constantly got juked out on double moves rather easily. Even Blake Countess looked bad. It was not a good night for the defense.
Not only did Waters tear the secondary apart, but he used his legs efficiently as well. He picked up a number of first down runs, finishing with 42 yards on 12 carries. He isn’t even the team’s best running quarterback, either. Kansas State ran for 149 yards as a team.
Kansas State destroyed Michigan in offensive production, gaining 420 yards to Michigan’s 261.
There are a lot of questions heading into 2014. One thing that remains true is that the Wolverines return a lot of talent that will have another year of experience under their belt. I think Devin Gardner is poised to have a monster season next year, despite all the Michigan fans that believe he is a problem. Getting Amara Darboh, Drake Johnson and Ondre Pipkins back from injury will give the team a boost as well.
The coaching staff has taken a lot of heat this season, as they should. If Brady Hoke’s comments a few weeks ago are any indication, we will see the same staff again next season. If the team performs anywhere near as bad as this year, I’m not sure they last past next season.