|"Devin Gardner Runs for His Life" would be a good subtitle for the 2013 season (image via Monroe News)|
Graham Glasgow at center equals a broken record. In each week since Glasgow was moved to center, Michigan has suffered from at least one bad snap. In this game there were two - one that sailed up and one that rolled back to Devin Gardner. Even the snaps from under center seem a hair slow. Glasgow is not physically or mentally capable of playing center at this point. He's just not. Those of you who were complaining about Elliott Mealer and Jack Miller playing center, this is what you get. I think people take the snap for granted, but college players are capable of being bad at snapping . . . and it's extremely detrimental.
Michigan's defense is still pretty good . . . It was frustrating that Michigan lost to a team that was missing so much offensively, but the Wolverines were consistently in bad field position once again. Michigan's inability to drive the ball on offense makes the opponent's job a whole lot easier. Nebraska's first scoring drive went 9 plays for 44 yards; the next went 8 plays for 56 yards. The drive at the end of the game went 14 plays for 75 yards, but that's one long drive in the whole game. Overall, Nebraska averaged 3.0 yards/carry and star running back Ameer Abdullah was held to 3.9 yards/carry.
. . . but Nebraska was beaten up offensively. The scary/sad thing is that Nebraska was missing its starting quarterback and the two starting offensive guards, plus right tackle Jeremy Sirles got injured mid-game and wide receiver Kenny Bell wasn't 100%. Michigan is mostly healthy on offense (aside from Amara Darboh, who was supposed to start at wide receiver, and backups like Russell Bellomy, Joe Burzynski, and Drake Johnson) but still can't produce. An unhealthy Nebraska offense produced 17 points. A healthy Michigan offense produced 13. That leads me to this.
The offensive play calling was terrible. Nebraska blitzed the hell out of Michigan for the vast majority of the game, and Michigan ran . . . two screens. Two screens in 32 minutes of possession against a blitzing defense? One problem appears to be that Al Borges only has two screens in the play book - the throwback screen to the tailback and the middle screen to Devin Funchess. If you want to beat a blitzing defense, you have to screen, you have to hit hot routes, and you have to spread the field laterally. That sounds like a spread offense, doesn't it? Instead, Michigan ran up the middle and tried to hit deep routes for most of the game. Brady Hoke and/or Al Borges has a basic philosophy of packing things in tight and overpowering the defense, but Michigan isn't capable of that right now. Almost every shotgun/pistol formation for Michigan involves at least one tight end, tight stacks, tight bunches, etc. Go four- or five-wide and try to get rid of the ball quickly if they blitz; throw it deep if the opponent doesn't blitz or can't get a pass rush. We've established what Michigan can't do; now let's try something different.
Michigan did absolutely nothing with two turnovers. The commentators mentioned that nobody had turned the ball over, and they said that the first team to create a turnover might win the game. Hah. Cam Gordon forced a fumble from Quincy Enunwa, and Dennis Norfleet recovered a Jordan Westerkamp muff. Those were the only two turnovers in the game, and they resulted in a total of 3 points for Michigan; those 3 points came after Norfleet's recovery, some terrible offense, and a Brendan Gibbons field goal that bounced off the right upright and through the goal posts.
Maybe we broke Devin Gardner. There are a lot of factors in Michigan's failures over the past few weeks, but ever since Gardner started taking care of the ball, Michigan's offense has taken a nose dive. After his two early picks against Penn State, Gardner has thrown 6 touchdowns and 1 interception. Aside from the offensive explosion against an Indiana team with no defense, Gardner has been sacked 14 times in two games and refuses to try to fit the ball into traffic most of the time. It's almost as if he over-corrected and now refuses to take risks. Other than a bad throw to Jake Butt - on which it looked like Gardner expected Butt to come back to the ball instead of cutting in - Gardner didn't take risks putting the ball in the air against Nebraska. There has to be a happy medium somewhere in between flinging 10 interceptions and getting sacked 14 times.