Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

The Good

Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon- Michigan fans have seen dynamic QB-WR duos in the past. Grbac to Howard, Brady to Terrell, and Henne to Edwards/Manningham come immediately to mind. While duos of the past have often produced stunning numbers, few have displayed the kind of relationship that the nation was treated to on Saturday night. Gardner and Gallon acted in unison for most of the night and seemed to be connected almost telepathically. The back shoulder fades that Notre Dame found so difficult to defend takes an enormous amount of practice and trust between QB and WR and Michigan’s 2013 duo made it look easy. Devin and Jeremy put on a beautiful display of teamwork and execution on Saturday that is likely the envy of many in both college and the NFL.

The Bad

Nonexistent pass rush- Getting pressure on the QB with a 4 man rush has been the major point of emphasis for the Michigan defense since the end of last season. Despite multiple opportunities for Michigan defenders to go one on one, the Wolverines failed to consistently beat blocks and pressure the QB. Notre Dame used a variety of maximum protections to keep Tommy Rees upright. Michigan struggled to beat blocks and get pressure with a 4 man rush even on the occasions when Notre Dame did not leave backs and TEs in to block however.

The Ugly

4th Quarter Interception- There were a number of instances that could have gone in this space. Notre Dame’s horrific secondary, Eminem’s bizarre halftime interview, Louis Nix’s nonexistent vertical jump. In the end, Devin Gardner’s interception in the endzone was too ugly to ignore. In reality the entire drive could have been include but Devin’s decision to throw the ball while being tackled in the endzone takes the cake. While ultimately not costing Michigan the game, the play marred was was otherwise a flawless performance for Mr. Gardner.

Grades

QB: A-

A single offensive series keeps the grade from reaching A+ level. Devin was the maestro for a Michigan offense that seemed unstoppable.

RB: B

Two of the biggest plays, a run and a reception, occurred on a single drive in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. With limited running room, Fitz Toussaint was able to eek out a number of big plays purely on effort.

WR/TE: A+

The difference in the game was the Michigan passing game, highlight by the playmakers outside. Gallon, Jake Butt, Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Devin Funchess all contributed big plays to a stellar day through the air.

O-line: C+

Notre Dame’s defensive line and constant blitzing did a number on the Michigan offensive line. The holes were few and far between and Devin was running for his life on too many occasions. Jack Miller put forth a Heraclea effort inside against Louis Nix, though the interior had issues overall identifying and picking up blitzers.

D-line: C

The lack of pass rush was alarming for the 2nd game in a row, registering zero sacks and only 2 TFL. Michigan is badly in need of high impact, game changing defensive linemen.

LBers: B-

Michigan’s LBers did an adequate job of filling run lanes and making tackles but there were issues with drops into coverage and proper pursuit. James Ross put in a Dr. Jerkel-Mr. Hyde performance, looking like an All-American one series then following it up by looking like a true freshman the next. Both Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon did a great job making plays from the SAM position.

Secondary: B

Thanks to the defensive gameplan, the primary job of the secondary on Saturday was coming up and making tackles. The Wolverines did a masterful job of limiting the yards after catch for the Irish and also managed to produce two huge turnovers. Blake Countess is well on his way to becoming a bonafied playmaker.

Special teams: D

A dropped punt, a shanked kick, and poor kick coverage all played into a special teams unit that struggled to contribute in a positive way for the team.

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.

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My Introduction

I would like to start off by thanking Lance for the opportunity to write for UMGoBlog. My name is Matt Brinkman and I am senior Sports AdministratiPHILCALLIHANon student at the University of Cincinnati. As a life-long sports fan I have always followed sports, specifically college football, religiously. I have been a Michigan fan for as long as I can remember thanks to my godfather who was a former Michigan football season ticket holder. He made it his duty to pass his fandom on to me, and it easily stuck. Growing up in northwest Ohio it wasn’t always easy being a Michigan fan, but that has never slowed me down.

Everything about Michigan intrigues me, and I hope to someday work in Schembechler Hall in some capacity with the program. My top three Michigan memories have all happened recently. While I have always been a fan, I did not truly understand the dynamics of recruiting, the Xs and Os, and everything else involved in college football until about 2006. Because of that, my three favorite Michigan football memories include:

1. Watching Michigan beat Ohio in 2011. I have seen many victories against O$U since I have been a fan, but 2011 was definitely the most meaningful for me. It had been a long struggle being a Michigan fan in Ohio since 2003, and seeing that victory unfold is something I will never forget.

2. I had the opportunity to watch the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game in 2009 first hand. We had no business being competitive in that game, let alone winning it. I watched Tate Forcier part the seas with an incredible cut back from the opposite endzone and to make the victory even more enjoyable, I attended the game with a die-hard Notre Dame fan.

3. Denard Robinson’s performance against Notre Dame in 2010. Robinson single-handedly kept Michigan in that game, and that was the best individual performance I have witnessed a Michigan player have since Braylon Edwards’ performance vs. Michigan State. Robinson has quickly become my favorite Michigan player of all time, and I am excited to see his final season in the Maize and Blue.

I am enthusiastic about this new opportunity that lies ahead writing for this blog, and I hope you enjoy my work. GO BLUE!

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What Happened to the Class of 2001?

The Michigan Wolverines Recruiting Class of 2001:

PositionNameHigh School
RBKelly BarakaNorthern (MI)
RBDavid UnderwoodMadisonville (TX)
FBSean SandersonFarragut (TN)
WRBraylon EdwardsBishop Gallagher (MI)
WRTim MassaquoiParkland (PA)
TEKyle EaleySaint Joseph (IL)
OLAdam StenavichMarshfield (WI)
OLMatt LentzBrandon (MI)
OLLeo HenigeChesaning (MI)
OLDan SimelisMontour (PA)
DLPatrick MasseySaint Ignatius
DLPierre WoodsGlenville (OH)
DLDave SpytekCatholic Memorial (WI)
DLAlex OfiliYpsilanti (MI)
LBScott McClintockBelle Vernon (PA)
LBLawrence ReidPickerington (OH)
LBJoey SarantosNorthern (MI)
DBMarlin JacksonSharon (PA)
DBErnest ShazorDetroit King (MI)
DBMarkus CurryBishop Gallagher (MI)
   

Made it to the NFL:

Braylon Edwards – Caught 252 passes for 3541 yards and 39 touchdowns during career at Michigan. Had a career high 13 catches at Oregon in 2003. Scored 3 touchdowns against Michigan State & Texas his senior season (2004). Won the Fred Biletnikoff Award in 2004 as the best receiver in the NCAA and was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Was drafted 3rd overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Made the Pro Bowl in 2007 as he broke the franchise records for receiving yards (1289) and touchdowns (16). Was traded to the New York Jets in 2009.

Marlin Jackson – A starter for all 4 years during his time at Michigan. Played cornerback during his freshman, sophomore and senior years; played strong safety during his junior season. Drafted 29th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Member of the Super Bowl XLI Champions. Has signed on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles the next 2 seasons.

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Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

Quarterback

I’ve debated long and hard on how to grade Denard’s performance from this game. On the one hand he really struggled to execute in the passing game, there were horrible throws which were matched with even worse decisions. On the other hand Denard was asked to do things that he has long struggled with and that he’s frankly not very good at. Denard was not, is not, and likely will never be a good drop back passer. He makes poor decisions and throws when he is asked to sit in the pocket, scan the field, then make throws. That’s not his strength and it never has been. He was asked to do that a lot in this game and struggled mightily. Denard can’t be completely absolved of the blame however. He flat out made some terrible throws and decisions. He’s been drilled on his footwork and fundamentals all offseason yet still makes the same mistakes over and over. Al Borges can’t be blamed for Denard chucking a screen pass 4 yds over a back’s head, or air mailing go routes. Denard did showcase some of the phenom ability we’ve come to expect. The pass to Hemmingway while being dragged down by a defender was one of the most exceptional plays I have ever seen. In addition Denard made  clutch play after clutch play in the 4th quarter. Still, on a night where Denard finished with only 11 completions and threw 3 interceptions it’s tough not to focus on the negative despite the outcome. In the end both the coaches and Denard are responsible for the performance. In this case I put more blame on the coaches than Denard.

 Grade: C+

Running Back

The backs were mostly non-existent. The efforts to find a complimentary back to help shoulder the load continues. The backs simply weren’t asked to do much as they received a combined 8 carries in the game. I would like to think that the absence of Fitz contributed to the effort but we simply did not use our backs enough to evaluate their performance. Vincent Smith had one of the plays of the game on a screen pass but the Hopkins fumble at the goal line offsets what would normally be a decent grade.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers/TEs

The receivers were really the story of the night offensively. I would give a gameball to the entire receiving core as they were the real heroes of the game. Junior Hemmingway did his best Braylon Edwards impression on a night when his #21 was honored for Desmond Howard and he really bailed out his QB. Despite being one of the smallest guys on the field Gallon had two of the biggest plays in the game, including setting up the winning TD. Roy Roundtree caught the winning TD on a spectacular effort but it was his blocking on the Vincent Smith TD that really caught my eye. The early drops are the only thing that keeps the WR unit from receiving perfect marks.

Grade: A-

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