Sep 21, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) under pressure from Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (59) in the second half at Rentschler Field. Michigan Wolverines defeated the Connecticut Huskies 24-21. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: Michigan at UConn -- What Happened and What It Means -- Part I

Posted at 5:30am — 9/23/2013

Michigan Football: Michigan at UConn — What Happened and What It Means — Part I

Just Get On The Plane and Let’s Go Home
Michigan Squeaks By UConn

On the road and in charge of its own fate, Michigan continued to play hard in the second half and played well enough to sneak out a tough 24-21 win against a clearly inspired and confident Connecticut team. One could take a good part of last week’s Akron game summary and cut and paste to provide the basic substance of this week’s review. But the difference was effort. Michigan supplied effort, but certain units did not display good play.

Sep 21, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies linebacker Yawin Smallwood (33) forces the fumble as he sacks Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) in the second half at Rentschler Field. Gardner recovered the ball. Michigan Wolverines defeated the Connecticut Huskies 24-21. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The preview of the Connecticut game mentioned that Michigan must play hard and play well. Further, potential success rests with the ability of leader and quarterback, Devin Gardner, to manage the game and avoid turnovers. That did not happen as Devin continued to kill any offensive momentum with untimely mistakes. Not all of Devin’s mistakes were turnovers. Devin is in a mental funk, and only someone in Wallyworld would dispute this conclusion. He is again locking up, taking excess time, and goosing the ball, termed aiming by game commentator Chris Spielman. The result is balls thrown high or behind the receiver corps. The second interception was a simple jump ball and his young receiver, Jehu Chesson, must either catch the ball, or make sure it is not intercepted. As an aside the Connecticut corners were well prepared for Michigan’s routes and played an excellent game. The fumble on a second half effort to pick up one yard was in part caused by Magnuson getting pushed straight back into the offensive backfield. Still, Gardner’s inability to secure and properly hold onto the ball remains evident. The ball was out away from the body and not secured in a traditional manner in any fashion. The first turnover was an overthrow to Gallon who successfully found a hole in a zone for a first down.

Again, a second contributing factor in the poor offensive performance was an inability to run the ball. Fitz anywhere was yielding between minus two and plus two yards. Michigan had at least ten plays of negative yardage running the ball, frankly a sorry statistic. Quarterback Devin Gardner, like Denard Robinson of the past, remains Michigan’s best threat with scrambles and planned runs, mainly to the perimeter. UConn did a good job at times on the perimeter, forcing Devin to resort to instinctive flight mechanisms that often yielded bad results. Devin’s pocket game still needs a lot of work. On a related front, the offensive line simple could not block blitzes, especially inside blitzes which the Wolverines will likely see the rest of the year as opposing defensive coordinators smile at UM film and game plan. Fitz danced again, and as has always been the case sometimes this works and sometimes it does not. Finally late in the game the offensive line found a little room on the left side and Fitz hit a couple of big runs, turning his stats into a somewhat impressive final total that may inaccurately convince a non-viewer that Fitz was a big factor.

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