Michigan Football: Michigan at Minnesota — What Happened And What It Means
Michigan’s spiritual and offensive leader, Denard Robinson, sat out Saturday’s game against Leader’s rival Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug. Whether by previous design or at game time as a pure necessity, the decision at least provides Denard with one more week to heal before Michigan takes on offensive minded Northwestern.
The Wolverines looked down at the start of the game knowing Robinson was not to be a part of the game equation. Early runs yielded near nothing and the pass protection broke down early, but then everyone just did their job and Michigan came away with a much needed win
The defense was up against it early as the Gophers held field position advantage for much of the first half. But a critical stop on fourth and one turned the momentum. The offense in the first half went on a long 91-yard drive that helped Michigan hit a gear high enough to start obtaining some game control. But it was the play of the defense that gave the offense continued opportunities to seal the deal.
A look at raw stats without seeing the score would indicate a much closer game than the final score indicated. Minnesota ran more plays and won the time of possession. The big plays, on offense and defense, went Michigan’s way, as did the game.
First, here is a word about Minnesota. The Gophers are nowhere near the league’s elite, but this team has made progress since last year. Granted, there was nowhere to go but up, still the gains made by the Gophers are very noticeable. Minnesota has several talented, big receivers, and as GBMWolverine warned last week, Michigan’s secondary would be attacked. The young freshman, Philip Nelson, is a nice looking player. He has good mobility and a decent arm. He seems to know the offense and showed good poise. Nelson’s accuracy had its moments, but Minnesota had the deep threat the entire game. The threat was not fully realized as the secondary, sans Floyd grabbing on, played well enough to prevent numerous big plays. The Gopher defense started out stout but Michigan started to make enough plays to eat some yardage and clock.And now the discussion turns to the Michigan offense. Clearly, Coach Hoke, and staff, saw the obvious last week and decided that Devin Gardner had to take the reps. Considering the minimal amount of time Gardner had to get ready; one must say he played exceptional. His confidence improved as the game progressed. Devin was a good enough athlete to take advantage of the broken play scramble to find Dileo behind the coverage. He was also able to make just enough running yardage to remain a threat to the Gopher defense.
The receivers fought and scrapped. Everyone in the position group made a big catch. Gallon operated well in space, Roundtree split a seam on a nice post that has been a Michigan rarity in recent years, and Dileo continues to show that putting a good football player that does the little things well on the field is not a bad idea. After an unsettling performance at Nebraska the receivers made catches that were both tough and important, balls that have been dropped or off target a good part of the season.
The running backs by no means dominated the game but this group also had important contributions. The running game was just good enough to keep Michigan in a position whereby the offense was two-dimensional providing some flexibility. Fitz started off slow, and then Rawls ran downhill enough to appear to spur Fitz to do the same. On a fourth and one, Fitz broke the seam and finished the game scoring.The defense again deserves high praise. While some may say that giving up thirteen points to Minnesota is far from noteworthy, there is no such agreement here. The defense had to overcome Minnesota’s superior field position caused by early offensive difficulties and poor punting. The two Minnesota field goals were victories for the defense.
The middle of the defense again limited the opponent to only a few successful plays, not bad considering Minnesota had a decent line and a big back. The outside lost contain a couple of times early on then, with the help of the linebackers, turned very stingy.
J. T. Floyd again reverted to option number two: grabbing on as Minnesota went bombs away deep in his direction. Kovacs, as last resort, was beat on a crossing/back across the grain pattern for the lone Minnesota touchdown. Taylor had a strong straight up game.
The linebackers had an excellent game in all facets. Demons and Ryan led the way with good coverage and big stops. One receiver slipped in behind Demons, but file that under the big deal category. Many other linebackers played and not one was picked on to the extent anyone could claim detriment.
An immediate meaning of this game is that Michigan is bowl-eligible. A secondary meaning is that Michigan is still in the Avis seat in the Legends Division after Michigan State surrendered a fourth quarter lead and lost to Nebraska. All Michigan can do now is play to win out, a very tough task, and hope for some help.A future question arises concerning Devin Gardner’s assignment. He will take plenty of snaps this week and must again be ready to play. Denard Robinson’s injury is hard to predict healing time and one good bump can aggravate the nerve to the point he cannot see action for another extended time. Did Devin’s game performance place him squarely as UM’s prime back-up the rest of the year? Common sense says most likely.
Michigan will face a different type of offense next week: vertical, horizontal, and every which way including loose. The inside read and the keeper by the quarterback is mission one to stop. The quick timing patterns take advantage of space and test defensive preparation. Northwestern gets out of the gate quick and sometimes loses at the finish line. The Wildcats and Michigan are basically playing an elimination game with the loser being pretty much out of the picture.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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