“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
Funchess is listed as a tight end, but you played him as a wide receiver. Was that the plan?
“Well we obviously planned it that way. Getting him out on the perimeter a little bit, a mismatch in a lot of ways because he runs awfully well. He’s a big target. And then we get into the 11 personnel and he’ll be a tight end. Just trying to really take advantage of his skill sets.”
No turnovers coming out of a bye week has to be a big plus.
“It’s huge. No turnovers. Had two penalties. So I think that speaks to how these guys have really worked. The bye week, I thought, came at a good time for us in a lot of ways. It was good to see us respond.”
It’s one thing to have a plan, but another to execute it. You obviously want to get the running game going. Can you talk about how that played out?
“Well we wanted to run the ball. We wanted to send that message. I thought we did a pretty good job of it. We didn’t have as much yardage probably as we’d like to have from that aspect, but I really believe the threat was there consistently throughout the game that we were going to run the football. I think tackles for loss, I think there were three until the last when we were milking the clock at the end. I thought it worked out well.”
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.
- Jake Ryan is practicing!
- There may be a change on the offensive line!
- DaMario Jones might contribute on offense!
- Derrick Green might get more snaps!
“First thing I want to talk about a little bit is this weekend you saw a lot of the ‘Cure MD’ patches that all the coaches [wore]. The organization has been at the forefront with the cure. We obviously didn't play, so we'll have our patches this weekend, and we certainly want to raise awareness of MD. It affects a lot of children all across the country.
“On the Football side we had a very good week. We got a lot accomplished as a team. I know we as a staff felt that way. I know the players felt that way. In the practices that we had and the fundamental work that we had in all areas at every position. The intensity and the competitiveness was very good. We’re excited to start the Big Ten season. We’re excited to play in the oldest trophy game there is in the Brown Jug with Minnesota. We have a lot of work to do, as you all know. We’ll continue to do that throughout the week.”
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan didn't do anything particularly weird that I had to call out. Hey, look, it's an I-Form.
WHAT SORCERY IS THIS
I called this 4-4 for Central Michigan, FWIW.
No idea if the prevalence of under-center stuff after the opening couple drives means anything in the long run. This one was out of hand fast, and Michigan did use shotgun on downs like second and six on occasion.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner, then Morris at QB. After Toussaint went out the first carries went to Drake Johnson (Rawls got in to hand off on the reverse), then Green/Smith, then Hayes/Rawls. At WR, Gallon was the main guy with Jackson, Reynolds, and Chesson rotating outside at the other spot and Dileo/Norfleet in the slot. Norfleet got more playing time than I expected.
Butt/Funchess/Williams at TE; Kerridge was followed by Houma at FB. The line was Lewan-Glasgow-Miller-Kalis-Schofield until late, when it first read Braden-Glasgow-Burzynski-Kalis-Magnuson, then Braden-Bryant-Burzynski-Bars-Magnuson.
[After THE JUMP: OL puts on a clinic, Gardner puts on a clinic (mostly), running backs… do not. Chesson escalates quickly.]
"Wait, I just looked at Mattison. He had about three or four of these [tape recorders] here. Can somebody explain that to me? I get up here and [omg there are so many.]"
You talk softly. Honestly.
"I don't understand."
"Speak up!? I've never had anybody tell me that was a problem."
What did you like from the first game?
"Well, we had some very nice plays. We ran some plays that were executed very very well. We had a reverse that was done pretty well. We had a couple play-action passes that were nicely done. We had some outside zone plays that got the corner nice, and we [were able to make] one-cut and run. I think those things were good. The biggest issues were interceptions. That's got to go away, because that's going to come back and haunt you, and then we had some penalties. Most of them were from first time players. Not all of them, but some of them were first-time players. We had a false start. We had a premature snap one time. So, you know, I hope that's first game stuff. It'll go away as we play more."
How does Drake Johnson's injury change the running back position?
"Well it's just one less guy. He was the first guy up after Fitz [Toussaint]. He was playing well and he was really learning our offense from the perspective of protection. He was a guy that was able to do some of the things Fitz could do, [Thomas] Rawls could do, guys that have been in our system for a while. So that hurts. That hurts. He's a good player who's going to become a better player as he plays more. Hurts our depth and we lose a guy that's not only a good offensive player but a good special teams player, too."
Football is back, and major props go to drum major—and Belleville native—Jeff Okala for nailing the traditional back-bend in his very first game:
I love that the BTN showed large portions of the pregame show; they had three(!) different camera angles of Michigan touching the banner. This one's my favorite:
Of course, I'm sure you want to see GIFs from the actual game. For Kyle Kalis and Devin Funchess setting their phasers to "kill", Taylor Lewan dominating with however many arms he pleases, epic ninja Hokepoint, and much more, read on below the jump.