I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
devin funchess giant wide receiver activated
10/19/2013 – Michigan 63, Indiana 47 – 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Jake Butt's block gets Devin Funchess cupcake dog eyes. [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Tucker! Jackie Chan!
YET MORE EXPLOSIONS!
EVERY ATOM IS RAPIDLY RECEDING FROM EVERY OTHER ATOM WITH FLAAAAAMES!
Someone mentions that 67-65 Illinois game!
And he gets thwacked!
This is Michigan!
I have confirmed this with people who do not care about Michigan football that much: that was not a collective fever dream brought on by the stress of the Penn State game. It happened, because Indiana is #1 in Big Ten offense and #546th in total defense. A team that put up 42 on them last week waddled towards their first and only offensive touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter of a game against Purdue. They gave up 35 to Indiana State while torching those guys for 70 points. They walloped Penn State by 20. Adam Jacobi has taken to calling the Hoosiers #CHAOSTEAM because at any moment they will break you or be broken themselves, leaving seven points and a flaming wagon wheel in their wake.
Pick literally any stat about offense you want and laugh. Indiana first downs: 28! Michigan's average gain: 9.0 yards! Indiana time of possession in a third quarter in which they scored 23 points: six minutes! Devin Gardner YPA: 17.3! Number of Indiana receivers with catches of at least 20 yards: 5!
This purports to be the same sport that Michigan played against Minnesota. I say it is not. I say it was a test pilot for TV executives from a dystopian future looking for something that will distract the masses from their slave-like drudgery in the fur mines. It was wildly successful. I barely remember anything about my day to day life in the fur mines.
In the aftermath, no one knows if anything means anything. Our ears are still ringing, shrapnel still falling, ham fragments scattered in the front yard. One of the children is walking with a limp and tilting his head funny in a way that seems worryingly permanent. The oil derrick is on fire.
In these situations it's hard to tease out judgments, especially when last week your offense was a few deep balls to Funchess and pain and your defense seemed rather good. A week later, Michigan's setting program records for total offense and getting eviscerated on the other side of the ball.
We had this debate last week about Raymon Taylor and now it's writ large: can any part of this team decide whether it sucks or it is awesome? Lewan and Gallon excepted, it seems like everything Michigan does is prone to insane swings. On the player level, hey look it's Devin Gardner, who explodes in all directions. Or Taylor, who was repeatedly roasted one game after having an awesome interception and was the primary hand in shutting down Allen Robinson for 3.99 quarters. Or Dennis Norfleet, who had an electric juke-you-out-of-your jock kickoff return and an electric reverse-field-twice-and-get-tackled-at-the-nine kickoff return. Even previously consistent Brendan Gibbons is now two for his last five with two line-drive blocks.
On the unit level, the defense waxes between perforated against Akron to crushing against UConn and Minnesota and most of the Penn State game. The offense nukes Notre Dame, nukes itself against Akron and UConn, reconfigures itself into a dump truck to out-dump-truck Minnesota, is bombs and turnovers and pain against Penn State, and then rewrites the record book this weekend. On a team level… well, you saw the Akron and UConn games. Michigan's quite a CHAOSTEAM itself.
Meanwhile, the opponent. In the second half, Michigan's game plan seemed to be max-protect pass after max-protect pass on which Funchess and Gallon would wander out in different variations of deep routes. Indiana would cover Funchess; Gallon would engage his cloaking device to become improbably open, then catch a ball and run for many yards. At some point in the second half, Gallon had already broken the Big Ten all-time receiving mark and one of these two man routes found him open by literally twenty yards.
Jeremy Gallon has three hundred receiving yards and the defense is blowing a coverage on him.
Blow a coverage on everybody else! Penn State intentionally blew a coverage and got an interception out of it! Are you recent immigrants from Malaysia? Do you think this is… Malaysiaball? I need Michigan to score a touchdown here and I am still slightly angry at you, Indiana. Incompetence so vast is a thing to behold, but how are you supposed to take this performance and extrapolate anything from it? It exists in a different world from football; it is for dystopian future distractions.
I probably shouldn't be looking for life lessons after that in any case. It's my natural inclination to search for What It Means For The Future after playing Indiana, since for my entire life as a Michigan fan Indiana games have been speed bumps on route to games Michigan might actually lose. This is a bad instinct after a game that will be That Indiana Game for the rest of time.
Here we should set those things aside and align ourselves in repose. Whatever just happened has no bearing on the future. Lay back, let your feet flop open, and breathe. Our neck muscles and inner ears could use the rest.
I'M FINISHED [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. That Jeremy Gallon's epic, Michigan and Big Ten record-setting performance has the whisper of a challenge here is testament to the ridiculousness of this game. Even though Devin Gardner set some Michigan records of his own, Gallon's the guy.
Honorable mention: Gardner, obviously. Thomas Gordon's interception was the biggest defensive play of the day, by some distance. The line kept Gardner clean for long stretches.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. After a couple weeks during which it was a stretch to pick anything, here the problem is paring it down form an explosion symphony to a quartet. Or singlet. Whatever. Music things!
But there is a pretty obvious item: Thomas Gordon undercutting a badly-thrown deep ball to intercept moments after Devin Gardner had fumbled a snap on the two yard line. Indiana got to the line instantly, caught Raymon Taylor off guard, seemingly had burned him for yet another immense touchdown, and Sudfeld left it short. A catch and return later, Michigan was once again in position to regain possession of the two-possession lead that was the only thing between Michigan fans and mass chaos. More mass chaos, anyway.
Honorable mention: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball. Etc. Gardner scrambles, gets flipped into the endzone. Funchess leaps damn near out of the stadium to near the endzone in the second half.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
[After THE JUMP: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball.]
A few weeks ago, Devin Gardner was the king of turnovers, baseball existed, and no one other than Jeremy Gallon was the target of passes. None of these things are true anymore—NONE—thanks in large part to Michigan exploring the idea of using Devin Funchess as a large and generally in charge wide receiver. Michigan's second touchdown was an excellent example of what happens when you focus too much one one guy and how Funchess can be effective even if he's not as fast as a really fast guy.
It's third and fourteen after Chris Bryant got smoked for a sack on second and five; Michigan comes out with a trips formation with Gallon the lone receiver to the bottom of the screen. Jake Butt, Drew Dileo, and Devin Funchess are bunched to the top of the screen. Minnesota responds with a 3-3-5 stack look and one deep safety:
Minnesota's coverage is going to end up super inane. They'll rush three, leave all three linebackers in no-mans land neither pressuring Gardner or covering anyone, and bracket Jeremy Gallon, leaving one on one coverage on all three guys to the trips side.
Below here is an approximation of what they do. Linebackers have been designated "blorp" in an attempt to get the reader thinking about the walrus defensive coordinator accidentally blowing bubbles with his own spit instead of whether he should have called this defense on third and fourteen.
Now, two of these guys seem to have obvious tasks. One is in man coverage on Toussaint. The other is spying Gardner. The third, the top-most blorp, seems to be in a robber zone type thing to the trips side of the field.
A moment after the snap, Michigan's plan is revealed:
Butt runs an out at the LOS; Dileo tries to get up the seam. He'll be held and thrown to the ground, drawing a flag. Funchess releases upfield, well past the blorp zone, and is one on one with Martez Shabazz, a senior JUCO transfer who hasn't started for Minnesota in his career.
Shabazz has already turned to run with Funchess at this point, when Funchess is five yards off of him:
That's because Funchess is angling for the corner of the endzone, selling fade.
This evaporates from the screen shortly after, but on replay you can see Funchess flip the defensive back entirely around as he breaks to the post.
You may remember "defensive back turns 360 degrees" from such things as the 2010 defense. More likely you made sure you do not remember that by liberal application of whiskey. Either way, your result is separation.
Gardner's throw is high and a little behind, but Funchess don't care, and the defensive back is trying to get a PBU on a guy who's 1) a half foot taller than him, 2) leaping, and 3) made of solid material.
GET ORF ME
It is now 14-7.
Slow not really necessary here. Here's a couple of replay angles, the first of which does a good job of showing Funchess selling fade and his quick transition to the post. That's a quality route even with the stumble.
Items Of Interest
This defensive call is ridiculous. It's third and fourteen and you don't give your crappy backup corner any help against Devin Funchess. I get bracketing Gallon, sure. But going straight man against three WRs without any help at all is asking for a facepunching. Here is a facepunching.
I also get spying Gardner, and covering Toussaint out of the backfield once you've scouted Michigan's wheel route predilection. It's that third linebacker hanging out nine yards downfield that really gets me.
Devin Funchess can turn around Minnesota defensive backs. This was far from an isolated occurrence. Here it seems like the CB is thinking "oh crap oh crap oh crap this giant robot thing is going to put a fade on my face," bails super early to the corner, and then gets turned around easy on the post. At that point it's all over even if Gardner's throw is less than perfect, as it is, because anything up high requires the DB to go through Funchess's butt (not that Butt) to even get a finger on his arms.
Can Funchess do this to better opposition? That's the question. It was interesting to watch Michigan State go up against 6'5" Admiral-spawn Corey Robinson in the Notre Dame game, as he presented a lot of the same issues. State had those safety things in the middle of the field, though, which limited Robinson to sideline routes on which he was fairly successful, catching 3 balls for 54 yards and drawing a couple of pass interference calls. Funchess is pretty much the same guy.
He'll have to prove it down the stretch here. I think his route running skills are quality enough to make him an option, and even when guys get over the top, the Hemingway Option always remains on the table.
Better behind and high than on target. What is the nature of "on target"? This not-perfect throw works out perfectly because of the nature of Devin Funchess. If it hits him in the hands in stride there are defensive backs other than this one who will be there to break it up. If you lay it up and let the guy get the rebound, nobody's defending this.
The nature of on target varies with the target. Gardner seemed a bit off with his timing in this one, resulting in a number of balls that forced receivers to reach behind them. Funchess has proven very good at this in his career, and his general enormousness moves throws that are definite incompletions to Gallon into big chunks of yards:
That's why Michigan's receiving corps is about to be land of the giants.
With Funchess threatening, it will be a struggle for defenses to cover everything. Minnesota tries to play it safe by rushing three, which gives Gardner time. Despite the fact that they have eight guys in coverage their fear of Gardner's scrambling ability pulls guys out of relevant coverage, and while they could still put one of those safety guys back there, Dileo's route up the seam will give hypothetical safety a choice between those two folks and Gardner should have an option either way.
Split out wide for most of the game, Devin Funchess set career highs in receptions and yards. [Photo: Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog]
After two ugly victories against overmatched opponents, Michigan entered their game against Minnesota with a reshuffled offensive line and a pressing need to placate the fanbase by not playing down to their opponent. After a slow start, they did just that, scoring 28 second-half points en route to a 42-13 homecoming victory.
The natives were restless during a plodding first half in which the two teams combined for just eight real drives (the Gophers ran out the last 1:25 of the half), due mostly to a 16-play, 75-yard march by Minnesota—during which they converted five third downs—that saw them tie the game at seven. That came after Jibreel Black forced a fumble by Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner on the game's opening possession; James Ross recovered and the Michigan offense capitalized with six runs in six plays, covering 35 yards and capped by an eight-yard Fitz Toussaint touchdown.
The ensuing Gopher drive ate up most of the first quarter, allowing them to not only knot up the score, but keep it close for the rest of the half. This was "old time Big Ten football" in the worst sense—slow-paced, run-heavy, and not particularly effective. Four consecutive punts followed, and the heated battle for field position eventually went in Michigan's favor—after Matt Wile's 55-yard boot was downed by Dennis Norfleet at the Gopher one-yard line, Minnesota was forced to punt it away from the nine, and Drew Dileo took a line drive kick well into Gopher territory. Four plays later, Devin Gardner hooked up with Devin Funchess—who spent most of the game lined up at wide receiver—on a post route for a 24-yard touchdown with 1:25 left in the half. Fitting the general tenor of the game, Minnesota decided to forego any chance at points, running twice and carrying three timeouts into halftime.
If that seemed questionable at the time, it looked more so after Michigan drove 75 yards in nine plays to open the second half, bolstered by an improved running game and the emergence of Funchess, Giant Wide Receiver. The first four plays of the drives were runs of 14, 5, 8, and 9 yards; a 21-yard back-shoulder throw to Funchess set up a two-yard Derrick Green touchdown to cap the drive. The Gophers could only respond with a field goal to cut the Wolverine lead to 21-10; that would be the closest they'd get for the rest of the game.
Much of the credit for that can go to Funchess, who finished with seven catches for 151 yards—both career highs—and set up a late Gardner touchdown run with a 46-yard grab on the right sideline. Even though the numbers don't bear it out, the running game looked improved as well; though Michigan averaged just 3.2 yards per carry as a team, Fitz Toussaint (right, Upchurch) had an impressive 78 yards on just 17 carries, adding a second touchdown run from 12 yards out to give Michigan a 28-10 third-quarter lead that proved insurmountable. Chris Bryant, the new starter at left guard, proved adept as a puller, which allowed Michigan to run the play they'd like to (eventually) make their offensive identity: power.
Most importantly, considering the troubles of the last two games, Michigan didn't turn the ball over once, the first time they've done so since their 58-0 win over these same Gophers in 2011, Brady Hoke's first season at the helm. After looking flustered against UConn, Devin Gardner was very sharp, connecting on 13 of 17 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown while showing a calmness in the pocket that wasn't present in previous games. Gardner wasn't needed much as a runner, carrying the ball just seven times for 17 yards and a TD; in a game like this, that's just fine.
While the defense had trouble getting off the field on third downs, allowing Minnesota to convert on 8 of 15 chances, they were otherwise solid; the Gophers mustered just 281 total yards on 4.5 yards per play and couldn't score a touchdown after their second drive. The inside linebacker duo of Desmond Morgan and James Ross combined for 19 tackles, making it tough sledding for any Minnesota run up the gut. While the Wolverines had trouble covering Gopher TE Maxx Williams, who finished with 54 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, the rest of the Minnesota passing offense generated just 91 yards. While the Gophers missed a couple chances for big completions late, Michigan made up for that when Blake Countess stepped in front of a Leidner throw and returned it 72 yards to complete the scoring with just 1:19 on the clock. The biggest concern on that side of the ball going forward may be the health of nose tackle Ondre Pipkins, who was carted off the field with a left knee injury; he's a critical backup behind Quinton Washington.
Despite the close calls and consternation from the nonconference slate, Michigan now sits at 5-0 and 1-0 in the Big Ten, and after two harrowing wins over bad teams the Wolverines beat Minnesota in a wholly acceptable fashion—the slow pace masked a dominant effort until the game broke open late. In the end, Michigan scored five touchdowns on eight offensive drives, with the defense adding a sixth for good measure while forcing Minnesota to fight for every yard. It wasn't pretty in any aesthetic sense; the score, however, speaks for itself.