Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) runs the ball past Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Chris Badger (16) at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: Notre Dame at Michigan -- What Happened and What It Means -- Part III

Posted at 4:00pm — 9/9/2013

Michigan Football: Notre Dame at Michigan — What Happened and What It Means — Part III

Michigan Wins Historic Game

The defensive backfield got spanked a little, but it must be understood that Rees on many occasions had time and the advantage of seeing one-on-one coverage on the outside. He hit some nice seam routes that the Michigan defenders made quick tackles to prevent the big play. Simple routes that have the ball delivered on time and in the right spot are very difficult to defend. The defenders reacted and took down the receiver post haste, which is about all that could be done. The most effective thing Michigan’s corners did was prevent the big game changing play.

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) and safety Thomas Gordon (30) celebrate after defeating Notre Dame Fighting Irish 41-30 at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The safeties showed up a little late to the party occasionally, but again could not be labeled as a major weakness. Gordon and Wilson play hard and can put a lick on a back or receiver. Last night, like the previous week, the safeties played deep. This makes the opposition earn yardage, but this strategy also opens up the short middle. The safeties’ job is then to tackle and prevent the big play.

The offensive line was up against it playing against A and B gap blitzes most of the night, not to mention a big front three that included the not so lightweight Louis Nix. This battle was not pretty, and there were times the Wolverines were getting pushed around. There were times Devin Gardner, as a result, was running straight backwards. But at the end of the day, the group stood firm enough to allow the offense to score 41 points.

Nail biting time occurred in the fourth quarter as Michigan hit a three or four minute funk in which Gardner had some consecutive bad plays, including the ill-advised Superman effort, and a shanked kick. He also goosed a pass (aimed) that could have been easily completed with a proper motion. This is usually caused by nerves. But life went on and the team recovered preventing Notre Dame from stealing a win from Michigan. Gardner’s growth continued with the nail in the coffin pass to Dileo late in the game.

What does this game mean? On the surface the game indicates the offense has advanced. The ability to dominate on the ground still is not present. Very few teams in college ball today can just line up and run the ball down someone’s throat, assuming relatively equal competition. Fitz Toussaint is giving everything he has. Hitting the edge effectively in the running game, discounting Gardner’s read plays or scrambles, has not yet been achieved. In short, work is in order, but at least some progress can be noted.

The young offensive line members continue to show some difficulty but promise. The cure is plenty of game experience. Kalis had some good moments. Notre Dame blitzed into several running alleys making the stretch and power plays tough to run as the blockers were outnumbered. The antidote was Gardner hitting the near vacant middle several times on passes for nice gains.

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) runs the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The win against Notre Dame makes the possibility of a double digit win season realistic. The Notre Dame game is always a swing game. But before getting giddy, Penn State (looking great on offense), Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern (looking strong), and Ohio State await. Michigan needs to play at a top shelf level to win most of those games.

The last few years the defense has improved as the season has progressed. The return of Jake Ryan may be a catalyst to pump this defense up to another level. He is Michigan’s best threat at getting into the offensive backfield.

There are still warts, but the frog is starting to turn. The offense is better, the defense remains what it is, and Michigan is going forward. This is still a work in progress, but it is clear advancement has been achieved and obvious results support this declaration.

Ten Footballs – Tom Harmon
Nine footballs – Jeremy Gallon
Eight footballs – Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, Blake Countess, Devin Gardner, Raymon Taylor
Six footballs – all chickens everywhere
One football – Lee Corso

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