|Devin Funchess (image via Toledo Blade)|
The offensive line switch kinda worked. Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant was inserted at left guard, redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow moved from left guard to center, and redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller was benched. That resulted in a decent rushing day for running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (13 carries, 78 yards, 2 touchdowns), although freshman backup Derrick Green (10 carries, 23 yards, 1 touchdown) couldn't get much going. Michigan eschewed the zone stretch - presumably due to Bryant's lack of lateral mobility - in favor of more of a gap blocking scheme. The biggest positive for Michigan was the elimination of so many negative yardage plays in the running game. Upon first viewing, I thought Bryant did a good job of pulling. He did struggle with pass protection occasionally (allowing a sack to defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli) and allowed penetration at least once that knocked off a pulling Michael Schofield. But overall, the pass protection and run blocking were better with these switches than they were against UConn and Akron.
Michigan had a somewhat lackluster defensive performance. Michigan didn't play poorly on defense, but they couldn't tee off on the Gophers, either. The only sack came from Cameron Gordon late in the game when he scared quarterback Mitch Leidner into running out of bounds, and similarly, the only interception came late in the game when Minnesota needed to pass the ball; Blake Countess promptly returned the pick 72 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota totaled 41 carries for 136 yards, a 3.3 yards/carry average. Leidner finished 14/21 for 145 yards and 1 touchdown. It was a little frustrating watching Michigan be unable to make big plays until late, but it's tough to complain about a 3.3 yard average and 13 points. Michigan just doesn't have that dominant defense quite yet.
Devin Gardner played pretty well. The broadcasters were complaining about Gardner's poor accuracy, but I thought Gardner did a good job of protecting the football and making good decisions in the passing game. He did have a couple throws that were a little inaccurate, but what college quarterback doesn't have a couple of those throughout a game? He finished 13-for-17 for 235 yards and 1 touchdown, and he took just one sack on which Bryant was beaten pretty cleanly. I understand the idea of an inaccurate completion (such as that post to Jeremy Gallon that caused the receiver to stop and come back), but the bottom line is that it was a completed downfield throw.
Michigan neutralized Minnesota's best defenders. I expected Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) and safety Brock Vereen (2 tackles) to have bigger days, but both were relatively quiet.
I hate that Michigan flips its defensive line. This has been going on since Greg Mattison arrived at Michigan, but on some calls, the defensive line will flip if the offense changes strength with tight end trades, motions, etc. It always amazes me that other teams are too inept to capitalize. Minnesota had a great opportunity to capitalize on such a play in short yardage, but they failed to snap the ball in time and eventually called a timeout.
What does this mean for Penn State? I'm interested to see Michigan play Penn State for the first time in a couple years. The Nittany Lions just suffered a big loss to Indiana, but Indiana is an improving team. Perhaps Penn State was just looking ahead to the Wolverines. Either way, Bryant and Michigan's new-look running game eased in against the Gophers, but now they'll have a stiffer test in Happy Valley. I also want to see how the Wolverines do against Bill O'Brien's offense and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I like O'Brien and respect his coaching abilities, but I would be glad to see a decisive win for the Wolverines.