Grading The Performance: Ohio

Quarterback

Players at Michigan are ultimately judged by how they perform against Ohio. While all position groups have to deal with an added level of expectation against the Buckeyes, no position group endures more pressure than the QBs. QBs are judged above all else by their record and performance against Ohio. For much of the last decade Michigan fans have seen their QB’s outperformed by their Buckeye counterparts. Names like Krenzel, Smith, and Pryor have made more plays in the clutch and fewer critical mistakes than Wolverine QBs. Over the last decade Ohio QBs have outperformed Michigan’s QBs, until Saturday.

Denard Robinson rose to the occasion on Saturday and simply willed the Wolverines to victory. Every time the Buckeyes made a play to take the lead or tie the game, Denard came right back to make a play of his own. Denard performed at the highest of levels on the biggest of stages; became a legend in the process. During one stretch of the game, Robinson completed 11 straight passes and was the most accurate that he’s been this season. The most impressive part of Robinson’s performance, from a passing standpoint, was that he was the most accurate while making the most difficult throws. Denard threw a perfect 15 yd corner route to Drew Dileo that would have gone for a TD had Dileo stayed on his feet. Denard also hit Junior Hemingway on a perfect strike between a safety and a corner. Denard made the difficult throws look easy, something that seems truly amazing when you think back of the season. In addition, Denard showed a tremendous amount of patience before hitting Odoms for a TD. There were no back foot, chuck the ball up for grabs plays, the kind that have gotten Denard into trouble all season. Denard was dialed in from the first snap and amazing enough continued to elevate his level of play throughout the game.

On the ground, Denard ran harder and with more decisiveness than he has since arriving at Michigan. There was only one play where Denard hesitated instead of making up his mind and taking off. Denard burned Nebraska last week with his scrambling ability and he did the same to the Buckeyes this week. Anytime Ohio vacated its LBs from the middle of the field, Denard took off which was great to see. Denard also did a great job on the zone read, an area that he has struggled with his whole career. Denard was determined not to let Michigan lose and he ran like it.

The only imperfections on the day for Denard Robinson were the two balls he put on the ground. On the first play Robinson was ruled down. On the second, Ohio got the ball in Michigan territory and scored a few plays later.

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Nebraska Game Prediction

Taylor Martinez Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrates after scoring on an 80 yard touchdown run in the third quarter against the Washington Huskies on September 18, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Cornhuskers defeated the Huskies 56-21.

Meaningful games in November, something we’ve been missing around here for awhile.

Sure it would take an even more than typical Sparty meltdown for Michigan to find itself in Indy the first weekend in December; but a 10-2 record and perfect 8-0 home record for the first time in the 132 years of Michigan Football are on the table. Even the biggest Maize and Blue homers would have had a hard time fathoming that happening in August.

The second most famous Big 10 coach named Bo brings Big Red to Ann Arbor for the first time in nearly half a century. Like most of the Big 10, Nebraska has been Jekyll and Hyde this year. Dominant in a 24-3 drubbing of MSU, and seemingly pedestrian in a blow out loss to Wisconsin and a tight loss to an average Northwestern team. The two biggest keys in my mind will be maintaining gap responsibility on defense against a formidable option attack, and red zone conversions on offense.

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Grading The Performance: Minnesota

Photo Gallery from Michigan’s 58-0 Thumping of Minnesota

Quarterback

What a bounce back game for Denard Robinson. Amid all the criticism, scrutiny, and even calls for a QB change, Denard came out and produced his best game of the season from a passing perspective. Denard was accurate, efficient, and looked completely comfortable in the pocket, something we haven’t seen from him  since last season. Despite what some may consider a paltry amount of yards this is just the kind of performance Michigan needs the rest of the way through. 15-19, 169yds, 2 TD, 0 INT is the stat line, though I am just as excited about the decision making and the ease at which Denard made completion after completion. When he is in his comfort zone Denard IS a good passer, he showed that on Saturday and hopefully keeps it up the rest of the season. Maybe Denard should have his elbow drained before every game considering the results.

Devin Gardner certainly showed flashes of the ability that made him such a highly rated QB coming out of HS. His passing was a bit hit or miss but there were limited opportunities. Devin is certainly not afraid to thread passes into tight windows as he did on the run to Hemingway.

Grade: B+

Running Back

If Michigan gave out helmet stickers, Vincent Smith would have trouble finding room after Saturday. On Saturday, Smith became the first player in Michigan history to record a passing, rushing, and receiving TD in the same game. Not bad for a prospect out of “The Muck” of Pahokee who was deemed too short and too small by most of the “experts” and coaches in the country. Fitz Toussaint continues to impress with his combination of speed and power. Fitz averaged a Denard Robinson like 9.8 yard per carry on Saturday. He did get caught from behind again, which has happened quite a few times this season. True freshman Thomas Rawls was impressive in his first clip getting extended carries. I`m still not crazy about burning his redshirt, but he definitely had his moments on Saturday. Even Mike Shaw finally got back into the act and had a lot of success on limited carries, especially on the cutback plays.

Grade: A

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Grading The Performance: Eastern Michigan

Quarterback

This one is pretty easy. The rushing performance by Denard was great, while the Denard Robinson (16) unleashes a passpassing 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.

Grade: C+

Running Back

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 bothVincent Smith (2) tackled by an EMU defender 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.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/TEs

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.

Grade: B

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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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