|Fitzgerald Toussaint had a career best game with 170 yards and 2 touchdowns|
Fitzgerald Toussaint is hitting his stride. Finally healthy after two years of long-term injury issues, Toussaint is showing what he can do. He had 20 carries for 170 yards, including a spectacular 59-yard touchdown run (Michigan's longest run of the year). He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season. Perhaps the best part of Toussaint's game is the way he finishes runs. Despite not being particularly big, he always seems to churn his legs for an extra couple yards after contact. His yardage total was the best by a Michigan running back since Michael Hart had 215 against Eastern Michigan back in 2007.
Where have you gone, Michael Shaw? In this, his senior season, Shaw is on pace for his fewest career carries. His career low is 42 (in both 2008 and 2009), and despite being mostly injury free this season, he has only 22 carries through eight games. Shaw has been a big play guy this year and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, but for some reason, the coaches haven't put their faith in him. Even freshman Thomas Rawls (13 carries) is getting almost as many carries as Shaw, and Rawls probably should have redshirted with so many guys ahead of him.
Mike Martin finally showed up. Martin had 7 tackles and 2 sacks on the day, one of them for a safety (which probably should have been negated due to grabbing Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush's facemask). He's been a little bit of a disappointment so far this year with his lack of production, but maybe this is a sign of things to come for him. Eight games into the season, Martin only has 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks, so 25% of his tackles and 80% of his sacks came in this one game.
Not a fan of the Denard/Devin combo this time. At some point Devin Gardner needs to run the base offense, whether Denard Robinson is in the game or not. It seems like Robinson is usually used as the decoy rather than the ballcarrier in the two-QB formations, but defenses are ready for it at this point. They know that when Denard is in the game, something funky is going to happen. So instead of committing fully to the distracting part of the play, everyone stays home, watches for the double pass, etc. To catch a defense truly off balance, offensive coordinator Al Borges needs to line Robinson up at running back or wide receiver and actually run a base play out of that formation. Hand the ball off to him in the I-formation, throw a slant or a hitch to him, etc. The halfback pass from Vincent Smith might have worked if not for the fact that Robinson was in the game and the defense was being extra careful.
Maybe Matt Wile should still punt. On 12 punts this season, Will Hagerup is averaging 34.8 yards per punt and has put four of them inside the 20. On 14 punts this season, Matt Wile is averaging 41.1 yards per punt and has put four of them inside the 20. Hagerup had a good season last year and looked like a potential All-Big Ten punter, but he's been disappointing so far this year. Michigan is averaging just over three punts per game, so the difference between the two is around 21 yards of field position per game.
Desmond Morgan looks good. He seems to be steadily improving after looking lost early in the season. Morgan earned the start over Brandin Hawthorne (whose tackling efforts in the MSU game were disappointing) and responded with 9 tackles to lead the team. I thought it would take Morgan a little more time to adjust to playing linebacker in college, but here he is starting as a true freshman. High school quarterbacks just seem to catch on a little quicker.
Courtney Avery's game of firsts. Speaking of high school quarterbacks, Avery got his first career interception when he caught a deflected pass, and Avery got his first sack (well, half of a sack, shared with Craig Roh) when he helped chase down a scrambling Robert Marve. That interception gives Avery a share of the team lead in picks, since nobody else has made more than one.
I've had about enough of J.T. Floyd. He seems to talk a fair amount of smack for not being very good, and he could very well be Michigan's fourth best corner. I would take Blake Countess, Courtney Avery, and a healthy Troy Woolfolk over Floyd. Floyd's poor tackling effort late in the game cost Michigan seven points when he stood and danced with O.J. Ross while Ross waited for some help from a Boilermaker blocker. After the two danced for what seemed like an hour, Floyd got blocked and Ross slipped into the end zone for a touchdown.
I'll take 7-1 at this point. Michigan has already matched last year's win total with four games to go. It's a pretty tough four-game stretch as far as the Big Ten goes, but all four games are winnable. The two most dangerous remaining foes, Ohio State and Nebraska, have had their own issues. Regardless, this team is on the right path and seems headed for some good November games. I like the direction Michigan is headed.