Saturday afternoon, the University of Michigan Football Wolverines squared off with the University of Indiana’s Hoosiers after the Wolverine’s uncomfortable four overtime loss at Penn State stained chances of becoming an early contender in the Legends Division.
Showing a prolific offense, the battle Saturday evoked echoes of a Rich Rodriguez offense, and unfortunately of a Rich Rodriguez defense at times, as both offenses proved unstoppable, and dominated. The the defenses were susceptible to long plays, and long drives.
Where did the Wolverines ability to stop scoring go for most of the game? It was certainly not on display. They let out several very damaging long plays, and had trouble stopping the Hoosiers. Forty seven points against them is all that needs be said. They yielded 410-yards passing, and 572-yards over all. Yielded to a good offense, yes, but that kind of yardage? Coach Hoke was disgruntled when I said good game to him afterwards, meaning a win. “Good game?” “Good game?” was the reply. Obviously, he does not care for shootouts, and games of continued little defensive effectiveness.
The M defense finally rose to the task, got a fourth quarter stop, and Thomas Gordon collected a pair of ever so timely late fourth quarter interceptions, which, coupled with the efforts of the offense, produced a winner.
Gardner connected on 21 of 29 for a record setting 503 passing yards. He also set a school record of 584-yards of total offense. He ran for 81-yards, and was responsible for 5 TDs, 3 by ground and 2 by air. That was a historic performance caused both Gardner’s talent, and the nature of the Hoosier defense. It doesn’t matter who this was against. This was an outstanding accomplishment, one for the record books. Eighty-three offensive plays piled up a whopping 751-yards. Penalties were held to a minimum.
Jeremy Gallon set records himself, as he caught 14 passes for 369-yards. There are now new Big Ten, and Michigan records owned by Jeremy, and these numbers are the second highest totals among FBS schools. Wow! At the post-game press both Gallon and Gardner were present. Gardner pointed out, in jest, that Jeremy is only 5’9″ so harder to hit.
Gardner and Gallon had more than a little help from their friends. Fitz Toussaint ran well producing 131-yards and four TDs. He is only the sixth M running back to nail four rushing TDs in a game. A solid improvement from last week, when Fitz had 27 carries for a one-yard net average per attempt.
Devin Funchess had perhaps the athletic play of the evening. When he was running at speed along the eastern sideline, he leaped over a would-be tackler in an attempt to score, and nearly did, coming down on a shoulder, at about the two yard line. It was a simply spectacular athletic move.
The Wolverines regained their confidence after the Penn State debacle, and again put up a good fight. They improved offensive line play especially at the interior in general, although that area of the team is still in a competition, and seems likely to be a continuing question mark as the schedule stiffens in difficulty. They seemed to benefit from improved offensive coaching schemes to improve the tailback running, and certainly there was better blocking. Knowing that they had to score the offensive coaches adopted a more wide open game plan that obviously worked.
Erik Magnuson was at left guard. Although Magnuson is a natural tackle, he has speed and quick feet. Joey Burzynski showed some promise, at the opposite guard. A little more speed at those two positions is nothing but good. Last week’s starting right guard Kyle Kalis played.
With all M’s offensive line troubles this year, it is fair to say that the offense was 22nd in the nation in scoring prior to this Saturday’s game. That number should be enhanced now. While Devin Gardner may sometimes perplex with TOs, he was leading in Big Ten offensive productivity before Saturday’s game, being responsible for 285.8 average yards over six games. Over seven games, he has now bettered that.
This is an Indiana team with a whale of an offense. Indiana hammered PSU handily this season. Prior to Saturday, they averaged 504.3-yards a game, and had 572 Saturday. They have many great receivers. They played two quarter backs, Nate Sudfeld and Tres Roberson. Tres has the wheels of a running back, and was the better of the two against Wolverines. Each threw a late game interception. Roberson was 16 of 23 and 3 TDs, a long of 67-yards, and had 11 carries for 60-yards. Sudfeld was 8 of 19 for 122-yards, and one TD with a long of 59-yards. Both were sacked once. This shows that M’s pass defense needs improvement, but the defense rose to the occasion at the end of the game.
M won the toss and deferred. The Hoosiers opened the scoring with a quick 59-yard TD strike at the 10:28 mark, and the shootout was on. M-0, IU-7. Soon Devin Gardner ran one in from 13-yards out and it was 7-7. On fourth and two Fitz, then ran one in, and the quarter ended M-14, IU-7. Gallon had gathered in a 70-yard pass to the 11. M led in time of possession by about 4 minutes. It seemed that all was well.
Second Quarter: Fitz struck again from 7-yards out and it was M-21, IU-7. Fitz caught a 27-yard screen pass to the I-U 37, and Gallon contributed. It looked like a typical M pasting of Indiana was coming up. The Hoosiers put that to rest with a 33-yard TD pass. M-21, IU-14. With time running out in the quarter, Jeremy Gallon answered with a 21-yard TD catch completing a remarkable drive of 91-yards in 12 plays. M-28, IU-14. Toussaint had a nice 12-yard run, and Jeremy Jackson had a couple of first down receptions.
The Hoosiers hit a 50-yard FG to end the quarter and the half. M-28, IU-17. M owned the second quarter time of possession 13.7 to 01.43.
Third Quarter: Fitz got off to a bad start at the beginning of the quarter, dropping a Gardner pitch that was picked up by the Hoosiers and returned to the M 5. A quick TD run followed and the race was on. M-28, IU-24.
Fitz got a couple of good runs and Jeremy gallon hauled in a 50-yard TD pass. M-35, IU-24. The Hoosiers put another TD on the board via a short pass. M-35, IU-31.
Was the M defense ever going to stop this onslaught? IU drew nearer with a 23-yard FG after a great Michigan third and three stand at the M six yard line caused an incompletion. M-35, IU-34. Too close for comfort.
Then Fitz ran in from the one yard line after Jeremy Gallon caught a 70-yard beauty. He was downed at the two. M-42, IU-34.
Of course Indiana answered with a 67-yard aerial TD gem. Suddenly it was M-42, IU-40. Gallon caught a 33-yarder before the quarter ended.
Fourth Quarter: Devin Gardner scored on a beautiful, scrambling, six yard run. Gardner was hit by a cheap shot in the end zone. A shoulder into the high chest, jolted him backwards after he had scored. M-49, I-40. IU again answered with a 15-yard TD run. M-49, IU-47.
The Wolverines were at the Indiana 2-yard line when Devin Gardner fumbled, wasting a long drive. Fortunately, the Hoosiers returned the favor of an error as Thomas Gordon got an interception and delivered it to the Indiana 5. Gardner scored again from 6-yards out. The OL missed communications and split in opposite directions, leaving Devin exposed to an unblocked rusher. He was hit hard from the side but got six. M-56, IU-47.
Thomas Gordon then delivered his second interception. M put together one last drive with a Devin Funchess catch of 38-yards and a 27-yard Fitz TD scamper. Final M-63, IU=47.
Forget the fact that the Wolverines have dominated the Hoosiers in the past. This was a red letter game for the Wolverines. One that they desperately needed to win.
While the defense struggled with the hurry up offense of Indiana, they are unlikely to see another that effective. They should change the Hoosiers moniker to Minutemen. They repeatedly scored in a minute or a little more. Fortunately, it is unlikely we will see that kind of offensive hurry up efficiency again this year.
That efficiency, and the inefficiency of our defense on this occasion, forced the Wolverines into scoring points with abandon. They even scored on a fourth and two, and put the passing game into high gear, while managing a decent running game.
Even though the records set were not against one of the Big Ten’s better defenses, they are still remarkably worthwhile, even if contributing little to the main goals of the team.
There is another bye week to heal and to consider the upcoming trip to the stomping grounds of the Green Meanies. While this win did not cure all the perceived flaws and vulnerabilities of this year’s version of the Wolverines on offense, defense, and special teams, it certainly was a step in the right direction. It should provide the Spartans some food for thought.