Michigan 42, Minnesota 13

Submitted by Ace on October 5th, 2013 at 7:38 PM


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.

Comments

1 percent

October 6th, 2013 at 3:09 AM ^

SORRY BUT YOURE RIGHT!

no, I know he didn't gain any extra yardage blasting those 3 dudes on the goal line but he sure did drive em back. I'm with you, I wish he was a little less weight-wise. The announcers did say he was 233 so by that he dropped some weight. On the other hand, the announcers sorted dimes, and by that I mean sucked D's, the entire game.

Section 1

October 6th, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

was doing play by play, and he is one of the best in the business.  I was not watching tv, obviously, so I don't know what he did on yesterday's broadcast.  I didn't recognize the other guy in the booth but I see from the listings that Ed Cunningham was the analyst and I don't know who Ed Cunningham is or was. 

Mike Patrick never seems to get the respect he deserves.

EGD

October 7th, 2013 at 8:40 AM ^

So, you didn't watch or hear the broadcast but you are chiding us for criticizing the announcers anyway because you consider Mike Patrick one of the best? Come on, man.

Personally, I like most of the announcers that people regularly complain about. I like Spielman, I like Musberger, I like Glen Mason, I don't even mind Mowins & Galloway. So I don't typically complain about the announcers. But Patrick & Cunningham were pretty damn bad on Saturday. I mean, they even got the Brown Jug story wrong (Patrick said it was Minnesota that brought the jug to Ann Arbor because they didn't trust Michigan to provide potable water).

Reader71

October 5th, 2013 at 8:08 PM ^

He's looking a lot like a bowling ball. I don't recall him making a single cut all game. He just runs hard in a straight line, people there or not. I think his vision will improve with more reps.

His pass protection was excellent though. He was laying the lumber on guys, really looking to hit them, rather than just get in their way or cut them down.

itsgreattobe16

October 5th, 2013 at 7:48 PM ^

The big key to the game wasn't just the initial reshuffling of the line, it was the in game o-line changes.

Those first 4 runs in the second half were with Lewan and Schofield lined up on the same side (Lewan at RT multiple times). We did this a ton and always ran behind Lewan. It was beautiful to watch.

Big props to Borges and I'm sure we have some nasty play fakes with these formations.

#manball

itsgreattobe16

October 5th, 2013 at 7:49 PM ^

The big key to the game wasn't just the initial reshuffling of the line, it was the in game o-line changes.

Those first 4 runs in the second half were with Lewan and Schofield lined up on the same side (Lewan at RT multiple times). We did this a ton and always ran behind Lewan. It was beautiful to watch.

Big props to Borges and I'm sure we have some nasty play fakes with these formations.

#manball

KBuck

October 6th, 2013 at 8:07 AM ^

I was very happy with shifty Lewan... Added dimensions to the run game. Plus, going right to left, tackle to guard, like that is not easy at all.... Added to my respect for Lewan and Schofield exponentially.

Going forward this could be a huge stop gap for us. Makes me feel much better about the B1G season.

itsgreattobe16

October 5th, 2013 at 7:49 PM ^

The big key to the game wasn't just the initial reshuffling of the line, it was the in game o-line changes.

Those first 4 runs in the second half were with Lewan and Schofield lined up on the same side (Lewan at RT multiple times). We did this a ton and always ran behind Lewan. It was beautiful to watch.

Big props to Borges and I'm sure we have some nasty play fakes with these formations.

#manball

Seth

October 5th, 2013 at 8:52 PM ^

I looked this rule up and talked to some coaches about it after I messed it up in an article. In college Lewan would have to change his jersey to be eligible. Any number from 50-79 is not a downfield eligible receiver. In the NFL you can report before the play and have it announced. The point either way is to take away the potential for trickery.

B-Nut-GoBlue

October 6th, 2013 at 12:04 AM ^

But that's opposite of what Seth is saying, which is he can't catch the ball EVER (unless tipped), whether it's downfield or a screen pass.

I'm of the understanding one has to check in, like the NFL I guess, and can then be an eligible reciever.  I also think Long was downfield in the Capital One game.

I could be wrong on both points.

stephenrjking

October 5th, 2013 at 8:01 PM ^

Crucial question: have teams been rolling over on Gallon? I suspect this is the case--he's good and Devin likes to throw to him, but he's been quiet recently.

If his receding production is due to teams giving him extra attention, then he should break out in a big way starting next week. Because Funchess was punishing single coverage, and might be an even more dangerous playmaker due to his ability to physically win balls.

At any rate it is clear that Michigan was desperate for a second receiver, and Funch appears to be the answer. It's hard to exaggerate how much this will help Gardner. Now, if Butt can contribute at TE, we're really going somewhere.

KBuck

October 6th, 2013 at 8:18 AM ^

I'm glad to see Borges using Funchess like that.. His blocking has been questionable at best, so why not use him on an almost slot role.

Also, Buttt is blocking early well, which is a contribution. I'd like to see more targets as well, but I think having Gardner force anything is a bad bad bad bad idea.

The Geek

October 5th, 2013 at 8:07 PM ^

Felt Muppet-worthy to me. Phew. 

The announcers kept saying Lewan was lining up at TE, but I believe you are correct Stephenrjking. Someday he'll catch a touchdown pass -- one better than the Fridge's run.

dahblue

October 5th, 2013 at 8:41 PM ^

Yup, they don't out "TE", but not nearly as much as they pointed out "Devin has been terrible", "Devin isn't accurate", "Devin didn't put that pass in the right spot", "Devin needs to be a better...whoop...great pass from Devin".