chance of bowl: 13.6%
It was great to be back on the sidelines yesterday! Here are some photos from the game.
Cam Gordon (Upchurch)
Jarrod Wilson (Fuller)
Devin Funchess (Upchurch)
Devin Gardner (Fuller)
Here are links to our individual galleries if you'd like to see all of the photos.
The feeling was boredom, interspersed with brief moments of Norfleet-related anticipation that ended an ankle-tackle away from being actual excitement.
Boredom, in this case, was a great feeling—a pleasant return to normalcy for Michigan. A home opener against a directional Michigan school, a 50-point lead heading into the third quarter, a fourth quarter spent looking up numbers of various freshmen and walk-ons while fretting about burned redshirts; this is how it's supposed to go, fergodsakes.
The Wolverines got on the board before the Big House crowd even got a chance to see the much-anticipated new offense, as freshman defensive back Dymonte Thomas screamed off the edge to block a Central Michigan punt on the opening drive of the game; senior receiver Joe Reynolds scooped up the loose ball and took it 30 yards to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.
A muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet, recovered by Delano Hill at Michigan's seven-yard line, led to an inauspicious start for Devin Gardner; after his first pass of the season was dropped by Devin Funchess, he telegraphed a quick out to Drew Dileo, and CMU's Jarret Chapman jumped the route for an easy interception.
Michigan's defense held strong, though, forcing the Chippewas to settle for a field goal. Gardner was in fine form on the subsequent drive, picking up a first down with his legs, then buying time for Drew Dileo to find a wide open hole in the Central defense on a 3rd-and-4 for a 36-yard catch-and-run. On the very next play, Gardner stood tall in the pocket, couldn't find an open receiver, and waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard score (right, Upchurch).
From there, the Wolverines didn't look back. A 38-yard run on a Dennis Norfleet reverse set up a one-yard touchdown run for Fitz Toussaint, who looked back to his old self—aside from missing a couple open cutback lanes—in rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries. After another Gardner hiccup—an overthrow to Gallon that resulted in his second interception—led to a second Jason Wilson field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6, the redshirt junior quarterback roared back with an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Jeremy Gallon. After Raymon Taylor jumped an Alex Niznak throw to the perimeter, nearly taking the interception back for a touchdown, Gardner finished the first half with a four-yard scoring run, again making his trip to the end zone look downright easy. Despite the pair of turnovers—and a punt block for a touchdown that didn't count towards the yardage numbers—Michigan held a 243-139 edge in total offense and a 35-6 halftime lead.
The onslaught didn't stop there. Michigan's opening drive of the second half featured a 45-yard play-action pass from Gardner to Reynolds; two plays later, Toussaint tallied his second score of the day from two yards out. After another quick defensive stop, freshman running backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith combined to run on each of Michigan's ten plays, including a 30-yard Green scamper on a zone stretch and the five-star's first career touchdown on a goal-line scrum.
Sacks by Brennen Beyer and Mario Ojemudia forced another three-and-out, and from there the backups took over. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris quarterbacked the next drive, completing a 36-yard pass to Devin Funchess before Thomas Rawls rumbled into the end zone from five yards out, giving the Wolverines a 56-6 lead as the third quarter expired.
The rest, as they say, was academic. The fourth-quarter monotony was broken briefly by a 36-yard punt return by Norfleet, who was one man away from scoring; a Morris interception on a tipped pass; and a forced fumble by freshman cornerback Channing Stribling just two plays later, recovered by Delonte Hollowell. That third play led to a 30-yard Gibbons field goal—his 14th consecutive make, tying a school record held by Remy Hamilton*—that gave the game its final margin: 59-9, Michigan.
Funchess sporting his new Ron Kramer Legacy jersey (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
Aside from the two picks, Gardner looked like the superstar he's expected to be in his first year as the full-time starter, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt and rushing for 52 yards on seven carries; CMU couldn't keep him in the pocket and couldn't stop him when he escaped, including one play in which Gardner comically olé'd an awaiting defender hoping to hit him on the sideline.
His ESP-level connection with Gallon showed, as well; Gallon caught four passes for 47 yards and had a second touchdown catch wiped out when Taylor Lewan
wandered downfield illegally rode his donkey too far even from the generous blocking zone they give linemen on play-action these days. Funchess and Reynolds both impressed, as well, and while each left the game due to injury, those dings appeared minor. Brady Hoke said after the game that Funchess left the game due to a cramp (an unfortunately-placed one, given the rather sensitive area he clutched after his long catch), while there was no report on the status of Reynolds.
Defensively, Beyer was a consistent presence in the backfield as a lineman in Greg Mattison's nickel package, tallying a sack and another TFL. Cam Gordon, playing in place of the injured Jake Ryan, looked fantastic in tallying a pair of sacks among his 2.5 TFLs, lining up at both strongline linebacker and defensive end and playing both well. Desmond Morgan took to his new position as the MIKE with aplomb, leading the team with seven tackles despite heavy rotation in the front seven. While the much-balleyhooed Frank Clark recorded a lone QB hurry, his backup, Mario Ojemudia, came up with a sack and looked like a very solid option at weakside DE.
Of the true freshmen to see their first action—and there were many—it was Stribling who impressed the most; he was Michigan's field corner when they went into the nickel package, and while he gave up a couple catches, he showed off his playmaking ability by stripping CMU's Andrew Flory after one of those receptions. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also played well in his first career action, tallying four tackles; "The Freak" didn't look out of place at weakside linebacker.
The only major points of concern were Gardner's two picks—hopefully those can be chalked up to opening-game rust, as he otherwise looked like a Heisman candidate—and the play of the safeties. Jarrod Wilson and Josh Furman blew a couple assignments, though there's a good chance that neither is starting by mid-September—strong safety Thomas Gordon sat out the game for a "violation of team rules" and Courtney Avery could factor in at free safety when he recovers from knee surgery, hopefully in time for next week's game but more likely for Akron. The offensive line had its moments, good and bad; Al Borges called for a lot of zone running plays instead of asking for his two new guards, Kyle Kalis and Graham Glasgow, to pull; Kalis played a very solid game, featuring a bone-crushing body-slam on Gardner's first touchdown run, while Glasgow and center Jack Miller had their ups and downs.
Michigan's fans trickled out of the stadium throughout the fourth quarter, content that their team took care of a MAC opponent like Wolverines should: devouring them alive. There was little reason to stay, more competitive football games to watch, and celebratory beers to drink. Cheers to a new season, a 1-0 record, and zero heart attacks.
*If you've just woken up from a three-year slumber, this is somehow not a joke.
Let's talk about the guys we haven't talked enough about yet. The breakout kids. The unexpected boons. Our pantheon of heroes:
- Capt'n Seth of the Comma Police
- An Bender, Flyin' Ace
- The Heiko Kid
- The Blue Creature from the Bend
- Brett Thiessen (secret identity remains hidden)
- Coach Unpossible
Casey Stengel used to do this thing with the media where every year he'd point to a player on his team who wasn't already an established star (Gardner, Gallon, Lewan, Norfleet) and say "that guy is a lot better than people think." And that guy would have a really big year. Mentally (or mathematically if you're Mathlete) subtract John Q. MGoReader's expectation for the guys from your expectation for the guys this year, and tell us who's going to be surprisingly good?
BiSB: I'm on Team ACL this year. On the "breakout star" front, I'll go with BLAKE COUNTESS. I think a lot of people are expecting, or even hoping, that he'll come back
|Rev up the Countess hype again | Fuller|
approximately as he was as a freshman (which would still be pretty good), thinking his injury would offset whatever gains he has otherwise made. But we live in a world in which ACLs are repaired with unicorn dreams (or at least that's how Heiko explained it to me) and heal in six to nine months. Jake Ryan tore his five months ago, and is already running and doing lateral stuff. Countess is a full year removed, which in modern ACL years is "what, me worry?" I think on the conservative side we're going to get the Blake Countess we would have gotten in 2012, and on the upside we're looking at a guy who will compete with Bradley Roby and Darqueze "You Spelled Denard Wrong" Dennard for first team All B1G.
My "breakout contributor" guy is CHRIS WORMLEY, who also tore his ACL about a year ago. Heitzman is the starter at SDE, but Wormley can be a difference-maker. He's bigger and stronger than Heitzman, and already has a year in the system under his belt (even if a lot of that year was on an exercise bike). He'll get plenty of snaps anyway because of the depth at SDE and Mattison's love of DL rotation. He may never take over the starter label because Michigan doesn't really do the whole "roster update" thing, but I think by the end of the year he's the most effective guy at the position, and he'll be getting ~40% of the snaps.
Also, Norfleet will be the new Steve Breaston, by which I mean at some point a tight end will maddeningly refuse to pitch him the ball and as a result you will scream terrible terrible things to no one in particular.
Seth: NORFLEET IS ALREADY ESTABLISHED (else everyone would pick him)
[After the jump: NOT NORFLEET]
I'll miss you, #19.
|Joe Kerridge||So.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.||AJ Williams||So.||Devin Funchess||So.|
|Sione Houma||So.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.||Jordan Paskorz||Jr.*||Jake Butt||Fr.|
Al Borges necessitates a change in season preview strategies. Previously folded into the wide receiver section, tight ends and close relatives have become so prevalent and diverse that they demand their own post and elaborate delineation of responsibilities. I have also snatched the fullbacks away from the tailback section to give a full spectrum of guys who aren't tailbacks or receivers who will see the field for Michigan this fall.
Your author's attempt to distill all the things he's heard about the guys listed above and put them into categories:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end that motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: Devin Funchess is the only flex guy I can think of recently.
Complicating matters is the fact that many of the players listed above bleed into other positions: Houma, Rawls, and Shallman could be tailback-ish, Funchess and Butt will have their share of time with their hand in the dirt, tight to the end, and may even motion to fullback on occasion. In a Borges offense, things are not as they appear!
/tosses smoke bomb
Fullback is a spot where walk-ons are prevalent; Dudley mentioned above was both a walk-on and Michigan's finest linebacker eraser in the past 20 years, with only Chris Floyd offering competition. This year is no exception, as JOE KERRIDGE eased past converted tailback Stephen Hopkins last year to acquire a strong hold on the job. Judging from one of the sudden legion of shirtless photos players put on Instagram, if you encounter Joe Kerridge in the wild you should walk away slowly and hope you don't smell like salmon:
L to R: Sione Houma, Bobby Henderson, Joe Kerridge.
That plus the whole returning-starter bit should see Kerridge retain his role as Michigan's first choice when something absolutely has to die. In year one he was a little tentative, as you might expect, and there were a number of plays on which I though he was not reacting to the situation in front of him quickly enough to make an effective block. I'm still not clear on whether some of the suboptimal blocking on spread plays was because Michigan wasn't using newfangled arc blocking (ie: using your fullback or tight end to take out an exchanging linebacker and give your edge guy the edge) or because a freshman wasn't executing, but with the move away from spread elements, the job will be simpler: see man, make man wish he had taken up lawn darts.
Kerridge has a ton of potential. When he makes solid contact with guys, you can hear football:
That linebacker set up outside, Toussaint cut outside, and all the LB could do was fall over. He can bring the pain.
Kerridge had his inconsistencies. After three consecutive +3 games and a monster +6.5 against Illinois…
And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.
I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are
…he fell off into a bunch of games where he hung around 1 point. A large part of that was the Gardner transition; he also lost some playing time to Stephen Hopkins, who came back from injury and was given a shot to displace Kerridge. Kerridge did whiff some blocks. He got smoked for a sack in the bowl game, for one. And this inverted veer against State is something an experienced guy might decide to block the end on because otherwise there's no one else he can hit.
For a redshirt freshman it was a promising season. In year two the goal is to cut his failure rate in half and catch five passes. He'll be an interesting guy to watch in UFR. If Michigan really commits to MANBALL he could see some big numbers.
[After THE JUMP: Funchess, Williams, U-backs, we've got it all. Except upperclassmen.]
HEY KIDS: This is an overview of all of Michigan's passing plays against OSU, which is an important data point for Devin Gardner. I'm not doing the run offense, because it was Denard doing Denard things and Rawls doing Rawls things and no one getting blocked ever—ie, not relevant, really.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||Nickel over||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||7|
|A little longer than a quick pitch and catch as Gardner resets in the pocket and hits Gallon, who's covered pretty well. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O24||1||10||Pistol Diamond||3||0||2||Nickel over||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||2|
|Backside DE forms up and threatens to bat the pass down; Gardner pumps and then lofts it. This takes a long time to develop and busts up the play's timing; Omameh(-0.5) and Schofield(-1) don't get blocks and Gallon has to dance to squeeze out anything. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Gallon runs this well and gets a couple yards of separation; Gardner steps up and fires but a little wide and high. Gallon can only get one hand on it. Protection was good off a blitz, though they held seven guys in. Borderline MA/IN. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O22||3||8||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Sack||N/A||-8|
|Gardner is just about to step into this and throw when Washington comes around the back to strip/sack as Lewan(-3) gets beat clean. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Lewan(-3). The worst thing is that Gallon was breaking open for a touchdown.|
|M17||1||10||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||4-3 even||Pass||Fly||Gallon||Inc|
|Max pro, two man route going deep. Gallon gets a step and Gardner fires it out there; the throw is absolutely perfect but the OSU safety reaches out and grabs Gallon by the back of the shoulder pads, slowing him a hair. Ball is now just past his oustretched fingertips. Outrageous no-call. (DO, 0, protection 2/2, refs -3)|
|M25||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||Roundtree||75|
|M gets the edge easily and Gardner can survey; Michigan high-lows the corner, who sucks up on a Gallon hitch for about five. Roundtree behind is open; Gardner hits him. That's about 15 yards, then the safety who just almost got burned (CJ Barnett) takes a horrendous angle to Roundtree and turns it into a huge touchdown. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M30||1||10||I-Form twins||1||2||2||5-2 bear||Pass||PA comeback||Roundtree||12|
|Good protection but no one's really going for the QB because of play action, I guess. Gardner steps up and has a very strange no-step throw that floats a bit. Either terrible mechanics or a great improvisation to get it over a DE in the throwing lane who endeavors to bat the pass down. Accurate, though, and Roundtree can turn it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M48||2||4||Offset I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||PA rollout Hitch||Reynolds||Inc|
|Counter PA to Kerridge does not hold the backside end because obviously. He gets out on the edge to harrass. Denard is underneath and covered. Gardner goes deeper to an also-covered Reynolds and misses, but Reynolds is off balance and may have stumbled out of his break or gotten interfered with. Can't tell and no replay. He probably should have gone to Kwiatkowski further inside but not possible with the pressure. So... I want to punt. (MA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|M48||3||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Cross||Gallon||36 (Pen -15)|
|Initial protection is good but Smith(-1) doesn't perceive the late blitz coming and leaks out of the backfield; pocket opens up and Gardner steps forward just as the blitzer does. He's got little time but does have Gallon on a crossing route. It's time for an Uncannily Accurate Gardner Flick, which is off his back foot and has no impetus, but goes right to Gallon for big yards. (DO, 3, protection 1/2, Smith -1). It's wiped out by a dubious offensive PI on Roundtree. (Refs -3!)|
|M33||3||19||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Rollout Fly||Dileo||Inc|
|Another rollout; edge rusher gets too far inside and Smith chops him down well. Gardner has a lot of time and finds Dileo, but doesn't step into this one either, and that's bad. Dileo has two steps to the endzone and the throw is way short and inside. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2). I may be harsh here because there's a shot of Gardner talking to Dileo that seems to be Dileo saying my bad just from the body language, but it really looked like a bomb into the endzone was six.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||TE jailbreak screen||Kwiatkowski||6|
|Fake flare screen to Denard followed by a dumpoff inside to Kwiatkowski. Accurate, but Kwiatkowski got bumped off his route and away from his blockers and gets chopped down after a moderate gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O19||2||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Dig||Dileo||Inc (Pen +10)|
|Another delayed blitz bothers Gardner, who feels he can't step up in the pocket because a guy beat Omameh(-1) and can't step into the throw because there's a guy flying at Smith. Gardner has another back foot fling that's a bit wobbly and a little behind Dileo, but Dileo still gets both hands on it and drops it. (CA+, 3, protection ½, Omameh -1). Roughing the passer bails M out.|
|M13||1||10||Ace FB motion||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||Corner||Gallon||Inc|
|Gallon's got himself a window here and Gardner just misses by throwing it too far downfield. Good protection. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M19||3||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||4 +15 pen|
|A ton of time as OSU only rushes three. Finally flushed out, Gardner evades a charging LB and tiptoes down the sideline for the first down. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2). Late hit adds on; it seems like they actually shorted Gardner a couple yards here, FWIW.|
|M38||1||10||Ace FB motion||1||2||2||Nickel over||Pass||Sack||N/A||-9|
|More max pro two man route stuff. OSU using delayed blitzes to get pressure after M OL commit. On this one Williams(-1) refuses to pass his guy off as he goes upfield and lets a LB in unmolested. However, this blitz is both delayed and slow, so Gardner should be able to do something. He pumps, hesitates, and is lost. (TA, N/A, protection ½, williams -1, RPS -1... both deep guys bracketed)|
|M29||2||19||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||Waggle drag||Roundtree||5|
|Instant pressure as end man is thinking QB first. Gardner makes another awkward-looking but effective throw and Roundtree has a step on the LB, but a hard corner prevents any sort of large gain. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|M34||3||14||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Sack||Smith||-9|
|Robinson at RB, releasing immediately, just brushes a LB blitzing. Smith(-2) doesn't get over to block that guy for some reason, and Gardner gets chased and sacked. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Smith -2)|
|M31||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||9|
|Gardner looks to Roundtree first and then goes to the other side of the field for a short hitch that Gallon turns into a comeback, evading tacklers and grabbing some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M14||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||Nickel over||Pass||Post||Gallon||30|
|A perfect downfield strike to Gallon, who is a shoestring tackle away from a touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|M23||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Hitch||Dileo||6|
|All hitches; Gardner finds the right one. Throw is a little bit off, so Dileo can't get YAC, but not quite MA territory. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|OSU showing a three deep shell all the way so this is an easy pitch and catch. Gardner's throw is a little upfield and outside, safe, but if he didn't pull Gallon that far out he could have picked up the first. Still not quite an MA. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M8||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||4-4 over||Pass||PA hitch||Gallon||Inc (Pen +11)|
|OSU playing press and rolling safeties to the line for an aggressive look. Denard's looking for Gallon on a hitch and the ball ends up turfed in front of him... because Roby yanked Gallon all over the field before it got there. Looked like a good timing throw in the right spot without it. (CA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M19||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||PA sack||N/A||-15|
|Inverted veer look into a pop pass. OSU stunts and catches this play perfectly. LB immediately in Gardner's face with no hope of any one blocking the guy. Gardner spins away from that guy and starts scrambling, but fumbles as he gets banged from the side. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, team -3, RPS -3)|
|M31||1||10||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA crosss||Roundtree||Inc|
|Max pro, two man route, Gardner does have Roundtree if he leads him to the sideline but throws it inside and upfield, which is dangerously close to an interception. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Gardner misses Roundtree wide, wide open on a dig and goes for Gallon on a corner route that is bracketed. He might have a tiny window but to get it over the guy sagging and there fast enough to beat the safety is a near-impossible task. The ball is a little late, too, and Bryant breaks it up. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M31||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||10|
|Just a simple hitch; coverage is a step off; Gardner fortunate that the Buckeye CB stumbled because he put this too far upfield and if not for that he would have had a play on the ball. Gallon grabs it and gets the first down. (MA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Nickel even||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||10 (Pen -10)|
|Schofield(-2) gets beat by an edge rusher and tackles the dude as he flies by, drawing a flag. Gardner gets flushed, notices a big lane, and takes off for near first down yardage that gets wiped out. (SCR, N/A, Protection 0/2, Schofield -2)|
|M31||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel over||Pass||Improv||Funchess||Inc|
|Blitz overloads the M edge and gets two guys through. Not much the linemen can do about this, the blocking scheme just got beat. Gardner spins out and gets the edge, then decides to chuck it up across his body way downfield to Funchess. That's way short and inside. He had the corner easy and would have picked up maybe ten yards if he took off. Frustrating. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, team -2)|
|M31||2||20||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout corner||Dileo||INT|
|Tough as he's a righty rolling to his left and can't get set here. He does have Dileo on a corner if he can get it to the sideline, but it's way, way inside and picked off (INX, 0, protection ½, team -1)|
Let's get to it.
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
|Ohio State (pending)||3||11(1)||2||5*||2||1||-||3||2||62%|
Like the South Carolina game, Gardner's accuracy let him down at points. This was mostly late, when Michigan was forced to abandon the run entirely with six minutes left in the game and Gardner was making deep throws outside the pocket by reason of rollout or pressure. It is rarely Gardner's mind that lets him down, but rather his feet. While his ability to get velocity and accuracy when he's not even stepping into throws is hugely useful in short-area flips, when his mechanics break down on deeper throws bad times result:
This was most apparent on the (eventually) game-ending interception, where a rollout to Gardner's left resulted in pressure and an awkward throw that sailed for days:
When Gardner does make a wrong read it usually results in a pass that's difficult to complete but not, say, a horrendous interception. In this one, he avoided serious mistakes entirely. This, however, was painful:
That was first and twenty and Gardner ended up trying to bomb it to Funchess way short and wide of the target. Runnnnn.
For 2013, it's all about getting set and throwing with good mechanics, because then this happens:
Gardner's relatively pedestrian numbers (11 of 20, ) are a bit harsh on his game. When you throw a perfect deep ball only for OSU's very crappy CJ Barnett to yank Gallon back the foot he needs to catch in stride, you have been robbed:
And when you have one of those little short-area flicks that turns into 36 yards but gets wiped out by a dubious penalty on the other side of the field, ditto:
That is the area where Gardner's ability to pull throws out of nowhere with terrible mechanics is a great asset. That broom-wielding chaos theory quarterback guru was probably like "whoah" about the guy, because when things break down he can get crazy throws off.
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Feast or famine here, as Gardner either put it right where it needed to be or missed completely. Except for the third-down drop by Dileo that was repaired by a roughing the passer, the wideouts did as expected.
This is every pass worth charting this year now, and you can see that Gallon, Funchess, and Dileo are extremely reliable options who drop balls rarely and have an excellent bail-out rate on tough throws. In years previous to this one a 20% hit rate on 1s would maybe be the best on the team; the three main returners were at 41%. That is somewhat mitigated by Gallon and Dileo's stature, which tends to move throws into harder categories. There are passes that are zeroes if thrown at them that would be 3s to Funchess. On the other hand, the percentage of balls marked uncatchable to Gallon is much lower than those to Roundtree and Funchess. Gallon's quickness means hitch after hitch is open, and it's easy to hit those. The stature, it gives and takes.
Upshot: Michigan returns a sure-handed and potentially prolific wide receiver corps, even without Darboh potentially emerging to replace Roundtree. Chesson and Reynolds should be able to at least keep Michigan even at the 'Tree spot, and then the Big One And Little Two should all improve, Funchess vastly.
"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."