Sunday, September 14, 2014

Michigan 34, Miami-OH 10

Derrick Green (image via
That was too close. The final score said 34-10, but it was 10-10 in the second quarter, 17-10 at halftime, and Michigan didn't get separation until tight end Jake Butt caught a touchdown pass with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter. The offense was inconsistent once again. The Wolverines had 460 yards of total offense to Miami's 198, which should indicate a whooping. But Devin Gardner threw an interception through the hands of Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh fumbled, and the kickoff return team botched a short kick, all in the second quarter. Maybe the Wolverines were still in shell-shock from last week's 31-0 loss, but Miami was on an 18-game losing streak and gave Michigan a scare. This game won't do much to alleviate the pressure on Brady Hoke.

We have running back answers? Derrick Green was the workhorse back on Saturday afternoon with 22 carries, 137 yards (6.2 yards/carry), and 2 touchdowns. Michigan had a stretch in the second half where they needed to run the ball and take some pressure off of quarterback Devin Gardner, which they did. Green was the guy they looked to, and he produced. The offensive line also did a decent job of opening up some holes, but Green seemed to find the creases that he missed last week. He showed some nifty feet and decent burst, and he started to run through some tacklers. He also had zero negative-yardage plays. Meanwhile, De'Veon Smith had 9 carries for 44 yards (4.9 yards/carry), and while he can still power through some tackles, his speed on a couple outside zone plays was once again lacking. Third down back Justice Hayes had 5 carries for 24 yards, and that's a fitting role for him.

Big plays are lacking without Devin Funchess. Devin Funchess missed the game due to the injury he suffered late in the Notre Dame contest, and it's unclear whether he'll be back next week or not. Michigan's receivers seemed to struggle getting separation from Miami's secondary at times, and I don't see anyone who can stretch the field or gain yards after the catch consistently. Jehu Chesson has some speed, Amara Darboh has the strength and decent size, and Dennis Norfleet has the ability to run after the catch, but nobody has all those qualities rolled into one. Darboh (6 catches, 88 yards, 1 touchdown) appears to be Gardner's go-to guy without Funchess available. The longest plays on the day were a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jake Butt and 27-yard runs by Green and backup quarterback Shane Morris.

I like Michigan's corners. Jabrill Peppers (3 tackles) played quite a bit on the outside, and while he looked raw in some aspects of coverage, he clearly has the speed, strength, and hips to be a very good corner. It's just a matter of time with him. Jourdan Lewis (1 interception) also looked like a good man coverage guy, which we already knew. They both seemed to get a little more playing time than Blake Countess, although I could be wrong about that. Once Raymon Taylor comes back, I think Michigan will be in good shape. Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix was completing 48% of his passes but for 338 yards/game coming into this one, and he finished 12/26 for 165 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 pick.

Where's the pass rush? Michigan is getting some pressure on quarterbacks, but they're not getting home. Brennen Beyer got Michigan's lone sack on Saturday, basically by outworking Miami right tackle Collin Buchanan - who had 3 false starts on the day, if I remember correctly. Michigan didn't roll out the exotic blitzes they showed against Notre Dame, but they didn't sit back and rush four defensive linemen all day, either. The Wolverines just aren't beating guys off the line like you think they would once in a while. The pass rush improved as the 2013 season wore on, so hopefully that becomes the case once again. The Wolverines have just 4 sacks in three games this year.

The run defense still looks good. Miami isn't a good running team, but Michigan did well against Notre Dame on the ground and held Miami to 33 yards on 24 carries (1.4 yards/carry). The defensive linemen aren't getting a ton of penetration, but they're not losing ground, and the linebackers are doing a good job of cleaning up behind them. Joe Bolden even made a nice pass breakup on a post route, which is probably the first time I can say that during his career. The linebackers are pretty solid all-around.

WHY, JEHU CHESSON II, WHY?!?!?! When he got his hands on the Shane Morris pass in the endzone that would have made it 37-10 (before the extra point), I really thought my score prediction of 38-10 was going to come true. Chesson must read my blog - and he must not be a fan - because he made the Wolverines settle for a field goal that made it 34-10.


  1. I didn't watch the game (don't have BTN, and Internet streaming wasn't working for me, so I listened to the game on Sirius).

    Before this game I posted some commentary here about this game being a test of Michigan's mettle. My sense is this game didn't tell us much, either negative or positive. Michigan seems a team that is treading water, but not making much forward progress. I don't think it's on the players at this point. I suspect they want to do better. *Something* is hindering this team. I'm not exactly sure what.

    I could only guess at what happens going forward. Get better? Maybe. Drift sideways? Probably. Get worse? Against better teams, maybe.

    Nice writeup ... it's always good to sanity check my impressions against your view of things.

  2. I agree this game didn't do much to alleviate the pressure on Hoke. Good teams pummel bad teams, and there was no pummeling until well after the break. The entire sequence that led to the punt out of the end zone in the second quarter was tough to watch. Green looked so much more comfortable yesterday, but someone has to show that guy how to throw a stiff arm.

  3. A couple observations from the game.

    Running Game:
    Greens vision seems to be improving every week. He does a nice job of finding a hole and hitting it hard. Keep in mind that Miami's LB's over pursued on alot of those cutback runs which you wont see from teams like MSU or OSU. I think the problem lies in Greens inability to pass block. Almost everytime he is on the field it's a run play. Teams have figured that out and are selling out to fill every gap. That's why he didn't do much against ND. Once he learns to pass protect the Running game will be consistent weekly. I would also like to see him develop a Deveon like stiffarm. On a couple runs yesterday if he could have stiffarmed someone he might have gone the distance. One positive I see is the development of the play action QB sneak to the opposite side of the field. Combine that with a dragging TE or WR and you have a dangerous play.

    I think the oline did a decent job. I think the glasgow/magnuson guard combine is the best weve had in a couple years. They seem to be the only guys that can get a good block at the second level. It's because of their ability to block the LB's that Green had a good day. Cole is going to be very good some day. But right now he still scares me. He totally whiffed on a couple blocks yesterday and I have a feeling that's going to happen in a big ten game that could cause us a victory. Overall if the communication amongst of the oline can continue to improve they could be a good group by October.

    Without Funchess this group is average at best. They don't get off jams well, route running is sloppy and have a hard time catching the ball. While Miami's WR's caught just about everything thrown at them. Darboh and Chesson both let several passes go right through their hands killing drives. At this point I think WR (without Funchess) is a bigger concern than the Oline. They all need to spend some time with the jug machine. Speed seems to be a concern as well. Don't know if it's because they can't get off of jams or run sloppy routes. Either way the QB's are left out to dry.

  4. I think you've put your finger on it. Something is hindering this team from being any better than good in any game. It's hard to see exactly what, but they do not dig deep and they don't play over their heads. Ever. You look at a good but not great Va Tech team going into Columbus and beating a highly ranked opponent on the road, or Boston College defending their home turf against a much better SC team, and you wonder why Hoke's teams are NEVER able to come up big that way. Not once in four years.

  5. Well, I actually thought we did rise to the occasion in the Game last year. Surely, not many expected us to put 41 points on them. We haven't done it on the road yet, though.

  6. I think it's hard to gauge this team, because we've only played one "good" team. I notice a lot of pass plays designed for DG are roll-outs or bootlegs. I think a lot of those plays are being called, because when he sits in the pocket he's not going through his progressions. Use the misdirection and it gives him an open receiver and a pretty easy throw. The O-line has improved and the running game looks much better, but going into the 4th week of the year I'm still going to reserve some judgement.

  7. Not sure there were any meaningful takeaways from this game. Mostly reinforced what we already knew:

    1 - This is not a top 25 team. (knew that after ND)

    2 - Good enough to comfortably beat outmanned units (knew that after App St)

    3 - Our game management stinks. But hey...we didn't elect to kickoff both halves, so we got that going for us...

    Big Picture: Gardner is still inconsistent and the D is not elite. The OL is a weakness, everything else is adequate to solid. Norfleet and Funchess look like the playmakers.

    It feels like the floor is higher than last year, just because of the progress made in the run game. However, this team still can't hang it's hat on anything. It's a mediocre team with no real identity. Maybe it will come later, maybe not. It's unclear if the team can play as well as they did against ND and OSU last year. Right now, we're just trying to make sure the leaks are plugged adequately and keep the ship pointed in the right direction.

    Reaching for takeaways:

    -Peppers saw his first real action and looked solid.
    -Good to see Butt and Hill climbing back to health
    -Wile can make FGs (no surprise, but good to see)
    -Darboh and Chesson are solid complementary players, but nothing special (again, not a shock, but some had high expectations for Darboh).

    I don't know what Vegas is thinking on this Utah game, but I think Michigan should be considered an underdog. The formula to beat Michigan is pretty clear: pass the ball on O, blitz the hell out of them on D, push tempo as much as you can.

    IF they can pull out the victory against the Utes, they should be in good shape with Rutgers and Minn looking weak and Penn State looking beatable. I'll be pretty content if this team is heading into the MSU game with a single loss.

  8. Wow…..where to start after a game like that. Let’s get this out of the way for DonAZ…next time checkout ( ). I have caught a few games on there this year and while not HD quality, it is better than nothing.

    Let’s start with the Offense:
    QB: Devin didn’t start off the game looking like a seasoned pro. I feel he once again felt pressure way before it arrived and at times refused to stay in the pocket. The second half was better, but still not what I would have expected from a 5th year senior. His decision making skills are still questionable and his ability to see the entire field before panicking are difficult to watch.
    OL: Looked about the same as per the last few games, but I did notice that Cole got blown by a few times and this could be a problem once the Big Ten season starts. He is young and undersized, but seems to have “it” between the ears. Braden once again looked like a kid without a plan. He was easily the weakest of the linemen in my opinion, but not sure if changing up the line would make any improvements.
    RB: Green looked like he got a good rhythm going as the game went on. He put the team on his shoulders and carried them through.
    WR/TE: Darboh and Chesson look like serviceable wideouts. Chesson has a good blocking skillset, but Darboh needs a little more time on the field. Funchess was missing and Gardner seemed to really like Darboh as his primary go to guy. Butt has lost a step, albeit expected, but he still has nice hands and his “blocking” seemed to get us some plays.

    Now for the DefenseL
    DL: Not much in the way of pass rush was seen. One sack, but very minor pressure most of the game. Not sure if this was by design or if they just can’t generate the pressure.
    LB: Between the LB and the DL the run game was once again stopped. Ryan had some nice pressure and was able to simulate a pass rush to draw some false starts. Still left the middle of the field open at times when dropping back into coverage….that dreaded slant over the middle.
    DB: Hollowell is just not ready for the big time. He looks a step behind everyone and his ability to stay with his receiver is just not great. Clark looked ok, but definitely not starter material yet. He does like to hit someone. Countess looked better at the Nickel position than he does at his normal CB position. He just is not an imposing physical player off the line. He did have a nice hit after a catch though. Peppers looked young, but his instincts are good. He is big enough to get physical with a receiver and confident enough to think he can guard anyone. Let’s hope this confidence continues into the Big Ten season. Lewis played well.
    Special Teams…..was just that….special. Enough said.

    Overall: This game was a train wreck for the first half. The second quarter gave a terrible Miami team some glimmer of hope and it was all from not taking care of the ball. I know Chesson tipped the ball that was picked, but there was no way he caught that pass and came down with the ball. 3 defenders were there to brutally harm him after that catch…never should have been thrown. Special teams make mistake after mistake, especially in the second quarter. Penalties kept some Miami drives alive and there was plenty of mouth running (Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden). Our defense improved as the game went on and again shutting down their run game proved to be a difference maker. Morris got some late game playing time, but nothing to draw any conclusions from. Derrick Green was the MVP all day long.

    1. @ Nick

      I don't think Chesson tipped the ball but I believe the ball was tipped at the line by a DL-man. Also, I think we are underrating the pass rush as Miami was also throwing the ball on quick drops and coverage also wasn't as tight as it needs to be. There were several plays where Clark blows right past the OL but the QB releases the ball before he can get there. The DL pass rush doesn't seem as bad as the lack of sacks. I think we can still be excited that they will do some damage come Big Ten.