There’s no way to sugarcoat the play of the QB position on Saturday. Denard Robinson had the worst game of his career in a Michigan uniform and Michigan paid the price. Michigan’s offense is so QB dependent at the moment that Michigan has no chance of victory without great QB play. Denard’s play on Saturday was far from great which prevented Michigan from having a legitimate chance of beating the Irish.
All of the bad habits that have gotten Denard into trouble over the years were on full display. Decision making, poor mechanics, and the inability to deal with pressure added up to a nightmare performance for the offense overall. Denard actually started off the game dialed in from a passing standpoint. The timing and accuracy was a good as it had been all season. Once Notre Dame kicked up the pressure and got defenders in Denard’s face the level of from the QB fell through the floor.
It has turned into a broken record but a senior, 3 year starter, and captain QB can’t continue making game losing level plays. Denard has to progress and turn the completely boneheaded plays behind him or Michigan has no chance the rest of the way. If Denard continues throwing the ball the way he did on Saturday, Michigan will be fortunate to win more than 5 games.
When there was room to run the backs, especially Fitz, they ran hard. The issue all season has been opportunities, both number of carries and open holes. Fitz gained just 58 yds on Saturday, 31 of which came on one play. Fitz was expected to pickup right where he left off last season but thus far that has not materialized for a variety of reasons. No other backs received carries in the game, though Vincent Smith did see a significant amount of playing time.
Stephen Hopkins failed to return from injury this week forcing Joe Kerridge into action again this week. Kerridge did a decent job of run blocking from his FB position the few times he saw action, especially in the 2nd half.
When your QB plays as poorly as Denard did on Saturday, the chances of your WRs having a big day is slim to none. Devin Gardner, Roy Roundtree, and Jeremy Gallon combined to lead Michigan with 3 catches a piece. None of the WRs produced a really big play, though Gallon did do some good things as a runner on 2 end arounds and a took a bubble screen 13 yds for a 1st down. Devin Gardner gets better with every rep but he’s clearly still getting comfortable with the position. A potential huge play in the 2nd half was negated by Gardner dropping the ball. The ball placement from Denard was far from perfect but Devin got two hands on the ball yet couldn’t bring it in.
The TEs were a complete non-factor in the game on Saturday. Devin Funchess, coming off two games where he found the endzone, was held to 2 catches for 11 yds. Mike Kwiatkowski missed a key block in the first half and was replaced by A.J. Williams in the 2nd half when Michigan decided to run the ball down Notre Dame’s throat.
A tale of two halves for the offensive line. The offensive line was brutal in the first half, both in run blocking and pass protection. A busted assignment led to Vincent Smith getting snowed under on the half-back pass that ended up getting intercepted. The line had major issues identifying and picking up the blitz early in the game but got better as time went on. There was an obvious "come to Jesus" meeting at half-time because when the teams returned and Michigan committed to running the ball, the offensive lined played their best of the season. Elliott Mealer continues to impress getting to the 2nd level and engaging opposing LBers. Taylor Lewan gave up his first sack of the season and had a lot of trouble with Notre Dame’s Stephen Tuitt. The Irish still got pressure in the 2nd half, but they also routinely sent more defenders than Michigan had blockers. In the 2nd half, the line paved the way for a consistent 4-5yds per rush. Unfortunately the 2nd half success of the line was negated by turnovers.
The pass rush continues to be an issue for the Wolverines, especially off of the edge. The line did a much better job of getting off of blocks and making plays in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage against the run. Will Campbell did a very good job of occupying blockers and getting penetration into the backfield. Campbell had an impact on plays even when he didn’t make the tackle or sack. Quinton Washington had the best game of his career in a Michigan uniform. The DTs are a work in progress but they are definitely getting better game by game. The DEs continue to struggle holding the edge and getting to the QB. As it stands, the DEs main contribution has been occupying opposing blockers. As a unit they have made very few individual plays.
Expectations were high coming into the year with 3 returning LBers. The LB play had been atrocious coming into the game. Michigan badly needed its LBers to play and they responded against the Irish. Desmond Morgan who has really struggled thus far this season led the team in tackles and was a major factor in holding Notre Dame to 95 yds rushing. Jake Ryan made several huge plays tackling Irish defenders in space. Michigan depends on Ryan to play a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage. Ryan is often the last man between a stop for short yardage or a big run. So far this season Ryan has held up his end of the bargain and showed why the coaches put so much responsibility in his hands. Saturday was no exception as Ryan was critical in forcing Notre Dame’s runners back toward defenders.
It took 4 games but Michigan finally forced its first turnovers of the game. In both cases the secondary was responsible for the take away. Raymon Taylor kicked things off early in the game with a picture perfect interception in coverage. Michigan employed a variety of coverages in the game and Taylor’s drop in zone coverage netted him the first pick of his career and Michigan’s first takeaway. Thomas Gordon prevented a ND score, recording Michigan 2nd takeaway of the game and the season. Jordan Kovacs played a key role in run support and getting pressure on the Irish QB. Greg Mattison is wise enough to play Kovacs close to the line where he can play to his strengths and avoid being isolated in coverage down the field.
Thanks to the number of turnovers, Michigan punted the ball just once. Matt Wile who has become Michigan’s short punter pinned Notre Dame inside the 20yd line with his only punt of the day. Wile continues to do a great job on kickoffs, blasting all 3 kicks for touchbacks.
The speed and acceleration of Dennis Norfleet continues to impress. Michigan fans continue to patiently wait for Norfleet to break the really big. When Norfleet finds a crease he hits it in a hurry. There is no doubt that Norfleet will eventually bust out for a huge return. Against Norte Dame, Norfleet average 29yds per return with a long of 33yds.
A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.
B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.
C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.
D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.
F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.
Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.