|Derrick Green (image via 247Sports.com)|
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.