Grading The Performance: Illinois

Quarterback

The QBs really didn’t have to do much in this game thanks to the play of the RBs. Denard opened up the game red hot going 6-6 through the air. Some of the same bad habits that have gotten him into trouble all season crept back in after the hot start. When pressured, Denard went back to throwing off his back foot and had accuracy issues as a result, as well as several poor decision with the football.

The pass to Koger down the sideline in the 2nd quarter should have been a TD, but it was under thrown, Koger had to wait on the ball, and the defender had time to catch up. There were also several passes that should have been picked off, but were dropped. Ball security was also an issue, as Denard put the ball on the ground several times. Denard did do some nice things in the run game and made better reads on the zone read than he has in recent games.

Devin Gardner played reasonably well in relief action after Denard was knocked out of the game. Unlike Denard, Devin has a knack for throwing on the run as his best two passes came on plays where he left or stepped up in the pocket.

Grade: C+

Running Back

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Grading The Performance: Northwestern

Quarterback

Inconsistency was the word of the day for Denard. Denard can go from pinpoint accuracy to complete terror in the span of two plays. 95% of the passes he threw were right on the money, the other 5% were way off the mark While it may seem unfair to judge a QB based on only 5% of his passes but that 5% can lose you games. Eventually the turnovers Devin Gardner8are going to catch up with Michigan. The law of averages makes it inevitable. While Denard seems to be a lock to lead the Big 10 in interceptions, it’s also likely that he will lead in total yards as well after racking up another 500yd day (129yds on the ground, 337 in the air). Once again his poor throws and decisions came on plays where he didn’t set his feet and step into the throw. Whatever was said at halftime worked as Denard came out white hot in the 2nd half, didn’t turn the ball over, and quickly led Michigan on scoring drives.

Devin Gardner was called into relief action for the first time this season and the offense didn’t seem to miss a beat. Devin zipped in a very nice pass on the run plus added a TD run of his own. This game will likely not be his only meaningful action as Michigan State is sure to have a bounty out on Denard’s head.

Grade: B

Running Back

Not a good day for the backs. I would like to blame it all on the offensive line but that would be unfair. Good backs are able to make guys miss in the hole and extend plays on occasion. The running game got no such production from the starting backs. Despite 14 carries Fitz was only managed 30yds, a 1.8ypc average. The only effective back in the game was Mike Shaw who was only inserted late the 2nd half after the other backs proved ineffective. Shaw has become the forgotten man despite having done nothing to lose the preseason form that had him named the starter out of camp. Even the protection from the backs was spotty at times, though the backs did a decent job of blocking for Denard on run plays.

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

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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: Western Michigan

Quarterback

Not surprisingly Denard Robinson had moments of both good and bad, though there was none of the spectacular plays that we have come to expect from #16. Fitzgerald ToussantOn the plus side Denard seemed more comfortable under center than he did in the spring, he didn’t turn the ball over and his decision making as a passer was good for the most part. Denard threw a picture perfect strike to Gallon on 3rd and 6, a pass that he struggled to complete in the past. On the down side there were several very poor throws made by Denard which were the result of bad footwork. There were under- throws, over-throws, and several passes thrown behind WRs that were caught. There were also several instances where Denard left his receiver out to dry, subjecting them to big hits and potential turnovers down the road. Overall the game management and decision making earn Denard solid marks in his first performance in the new offense, even with the lack of big plays.

Grade: B-

Running Back

The performance by the backs was really a tale of two halves. There wasn’t much running room in the first half and the backs struggled to hit holes and make guys miss. Michigan averaged a measly 4.2ypc going into halftime. That number radically changed in the 2nd half as Fitzgerald Toussaint and Shaw both broke runs of 40+ yards. Michigan finished the game average 7.3ypc with both backs flashing the kind of big play ability the offense has missed. The backs also did a good job of blocking, both in pass protection and lead blocking for Denard on designed runs.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/TEs

It was a mostly uneventful day for the receivers as there were only 13 passes thrown in the game. Roundtree and Hemmingway both bailed out Denard Robinson on bad throws and the receivers as a whole did a good job of catching the ball. Koger had 2 nice grabs, including one in traffic which got him hammered. Both the TEs and WRs did a good job of run blocking during the game. Tough to praise or criticize a unit that didn’t get asked to do very much.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

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