This one is pretty easy. The rushing performance by Denard was great, while the passing performance left a lot to be desired. Denard’s 55 yd run really sparked an offense that was stagnant up until that point. The 198 rushing yards that Denard piled up is nothing to sneeze at, even against Eastern Michigan. Denard still has a lot to work on in the passing game though. 95 yds passing and a pick against a lackluster Eastern defense is not something you like to see. Once again Denard’s footwork and fundamentals were spotty leading to passes that were late or overthrown. There were 2 TD passes, but both very easy throws. This marks the second time this season that Denard has thrown for under 100 yds in a game. For much of the game Denard looked like the same passer we saw as a true freshman. From here on out Denard is not going to be able to be as inaccurate as he has been without it costing Michigan games.
Devin Gardner did get in late and had a nice 7 yd run but did not attempt a pass.
This was the best game the backs have had by far. The combined 22 carries is less than most probably expected against an opponent like Eastern, but the backs took advantage of the opportunities they were given. Vincent Smith had a great game both running and blocking. Smith has likely played himself ahead of Shaw on the depth chart. Fitz had several very tough runs in his return to the lineup, Hopkins has to be in the doghouse after his short yardage fumble from a week ago. True freshman Thomas Rawls made his debut in a Michigan uniform but did not receive enough carries to judge his performance. Granted it was only Eastern but if Michigan can get this kind of performance out of the backs the rest of the way this offense will be in decent-good shape. The coaches appear to have abandoned the idea of riding one back throughout games.
Another slow day for the receivers which isn’t a surprise considering how poor the passing game was. Kevin Koger finally recorded his first TD of the season, but the two heroes of the Notre Dame game, Roundtree and Hemingway, didn’t get many chances. The blocking is really all there is to judge the WR core on.
The line struggled for most of the day with the inside running game but eventually did a good job in blocking the outside runs. Sweeps, tosses, and the outside zones were our most effective running plays outside of the QB ISO. We simply can’t run the power play effectively. The guards simply aren’t good enough to run the play as it is drawn up and rest of the line gets little push. Denard had to dodge a few tacklers but the pass blocking was as good as it has been and remains the “strength” of the line.
Still a work in progress, the line started to play better once Will Campbell was inserted into the lineup. Big Will may end up being a factor for this defense after all but the jury is still out. The line continues to get pushed around early in games and this game was no exception. Jibreel Black had a nice day chasing the QB and forcing plays back inside. Craig Roh finally showed up on the box score and recorded Michigan’s first sack from the defensive line position all season. True freshman Frank Clark did some really nice things late in the game. We still have too many problems getting off blocks, especially the DEs.
The linebackers took a step back in this game, losing containment on the fly sweeps and letting the QB get outside. Demens had his quietest day to date and seemed a step behind on a lot of plays. Hawthorne racked up quite a few tackles but wasn’t the same playmaker he was against Notre Dame. Jake Ryan was hit or miss, one play he would stuff the back in the backfield, the next he’d lose containment outside. Cam Gordon’s return can’t come soon enough as the lack of speed in the front 7 is becoming more and more evident.
Kovacs was all over the place for the 3rd game in a row. He’s gotten much better at making plays in space which was an issue a year ago. Thomas Gordon had a nice game and a great one handed pick that flipped momentum in Michigan’s direction. The CBs were nonexistent but then they weren’t challenged very often. The 2 true freshman DBs that have been playing well in camp finally made appearances. Raymon Taylor receiving more playing time than Countess, which was somewhat of a surprise given the reports out of fall camp.
I realize that there was wind but Matt Wile is having a lot of trouble getting the ball deep on kickoffs, the squib kicks were nothing to write home about either. Wile really struggled to get hang time on his punts as well and only averaged 35 yds per punt. Will Hagerup can’t return from suspension soon enough. It was nice to see Michigan finally attempt and make a FG, even if it was a short one. Confidence is never a bad thing when kickers are concerned. It is a shame that we had a block in the back by Ricardo Miller called on the one good kick return we’ve had all season.
This makes the 3rd game in a row that the team hasn’t come out of the gate ready to go on offense or defense. It would make sense for there to be a letdown in intensity given the fact that Michigan is coming off the high of beating Notre Dame. The problem is that many of the issues at the start of this game were the same issues we’ve seen for 3 straight games. The defense certainly didn’t seem prepared for Eastern’s outside runs early, especially the fly sweeps. Giving up 120 rushing yards in a quarter and a half to Eastern is not something you want to see. It was nearly halftime before Michigan adjusted to what Eastern was doing. Some of it was simply getting guys to play better and with more intensity, but we need to have that at the start of games not once we’re trailing. The defensive coaches really worked in the younger guys throughout the game which is always good for morale. The front 7 still has issues lining up correctly which is unexpected given we’re 3 games into the season.
Given what he said in the media, the game that Al Borges called was a bit puzzling. Denard Robinson had the most carries he’s had all season and the offense as a whole failed to get into a rhythm until after the Gordon interception. It’s evident that Borges is still picking his way through and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Michigan abandoned going under center much earlier in this game than the last 2. The short passing game is still mostly nonexistent within the offense. There was one quick out to Hemingway but no slants, curls, or bubble screens. The TD to Dileo was a nice call off the QB ISO; we need to see more of that along with other “setup plays” to help the flow of the offense.
The lack of player participation from an offensive standpoint was disappointing. Thomas Rawls was the only young player to see playing time other than late in 4th quarter. It’s a shame that Devin Gardner only got one series. Leaving Denard in the game, plus allowing him to take unnecessary hits, while up 28-3 was an eyebrow raiser as well.