Big gaffes. Michigan made some stupid plays and decisions down the stretch to seal their fate. Unfortunately, this has become the 2014 team's modus operandi. A punt return touchdown was called back for a pointless block in the back. A field goal turned into a touchdown when cornerback Jourdan Lewis took out the kicker, giving Maryland an automatic first down. (Regardless of what some bitter Michigan fans say, it was clearly a roughing the kicker penalty and worthy of 15 yards, whether you think Maryland kicker Brad Craddock exaggerated or not.) Worst of all was Brady Hoke's clock management at the end of the game. Michigan's drive stalled with roughly four minutes remaining in the game, and Hoke waited most of that time before calling his one timeout. By the time he did, the Terrapins just had to run one running play before allowing the final 34 seconds or so to run off the clock.
Speaking of bitter. Maybe I'm bitter, too, but how was Maryland head coach Randy Edsall allowed to do what he did at the end of the game? With a little over 30 seconds remaining, he rushed out onto the field. When the officials stopped him, he turned around, threw his headset in the air, and started celebrating in the middle of the field. I fail to see why a coach is allowed to celebrate on the field before the game is over, but maybe I'm just old-school.
Joe Kerridge fun time. Redshirt junior fullback Joe Kerridge had himself a pretty good game. It's not often that fullbacks get attention, so here's some for him. Kerridge has turned into a solid blocker. He also has good hands - as evidenced by his one-handed catch for 7 yards. The most memorable play of his career so far, though, is probably the fake punt run from the first quarter. Michigan was set to attempt a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 when running back De'Veon Smith inexplicably false started (seriously, a running back false starting on a quarterback sneak is among the dumbest things you can do on a football field). On 4th-and-6, Michigan would surely just punt the ball. Instead, they snapped it to upback Kerridge, who plunged through the line and then got to the left sideline on his way to a 52-yard run. He couldn't quite get past the punt returner for the touchdown, but that play got Michigan inside the 10 . . . so they could settle for a field goal.
This is the Devin Gardner I like. I can't say that Gardner played a brilliant game, but this was the best he has looked since the first few games of the season. His ankle finally looked somewhat healthy, which allowed him to use perhaps his best asset - his ability to tuck the ball and run. He ran the ball 14 times for a net of 82 yards (5.9 yards/carry), including a 24-yarder and a 15-yard touchdown. Passing the ball, he was 13/24 for 106 yards and 1 interception. He looked decent throwing the ball at times and was victimized by a few drops, including a Freddy Canteen drop that would have been a touchdown, a Jake Butt seam route that may have been a touchdown, a near-catch by Bo Dever that turned into the interception, and your standard Devin Funchess drops. Remember in 2011 when Michigan's receivers - mainly Junior Hemingway - bailed out Denard Robinson on numerous occasions? This year is the opposite of that.
Devin Funchess isn't really trying. Funchess and Blake Countess are the two biggest disappointments this season, but at least Countess seems like he's trying out there. Funchess, on the other hand, seems lackadaisical most of the time. For being 6'5" and 230 lbs., he doesn't have a great desire to dominate people who are smaller than him. It's the same mentality that got him moved away from tight end. He didn't try very hard to block, so the coaches moved him to wide receiver. Now he doesn't try very hard to catch the ball, and when he does, he goes down way too easily. I don't think I can say this about any other regular during Hoke's tenure, but Funchess looks lazy and too often self-centered. (I know there is the occasional effort to, say, snatch the ball away from a Penn State safety or chase down a Northwestern safety who dared to intercept the ball - but those plays just hint at what he can do if he does that whole "trying" thing.)
I'll give Funchess a pass on his last "drop." Maryland safety Jeremiah Johnson pretty clearly interfered with Funchess when Michigan was trying to drive the ball for a game-tying touchdown near the end of the game. Johnson's left hand got to Funchess's left hand when the ball was still a few feet away. The big guy may very well have dropped it on his own, but he never really got the chance.
Walk-ons. Fans complain when starters are out there on special teams, so I hope they're not complaining today. Dennis Norfleet finally returned a punt for a touchdown only to see it called back because walk-on safety A.J. Pearson blocked a Maryland player in the back for no good reason. The Maryland player wouldn't have made the play, anyway, but that's kind of the point. Walk-ons are walk-ons for a reason. Sometimes they overreach because they're trying to prove themselves, and sometimes the game just moves too quickly for them. Of course, starters are capable of committing penalties, too, but they don't have those things working against them. Meanwhile, Bo Dever's failure to reel in a catch resulted in a William Likely interception. The ball was thrown behind Dever, but he still got both hands on it.
Speaking of Bo Dever, why Bo Dever? Wide receiver recruiting/development has failed in a big way if this is what Michigan has to throw out there. I have been supportive of wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski the past few years because of the work he has done with Junior Hemingway, Roy Roundtree, and Jeremy Gallon, among others. But this season has been ridiculous. Let's take a look at Michigan's contributors at the position:
- Devin Funchess (Jr.): Recruited as a tight end, couldn't block, moved to WR, generally lackadaisical, too many drops, physical specimen
- Amara Darboh (RS So.): Recruited as a wide receiver, mediocre speed, mediocre route runner, great hands
- Dennis Norfleet (Jr.): Recruited as a kick returner/running back, can't block, can't catch anything other than a screen pass
- Jehu Chesson (RS So.): Recruited as a wide receiver, best blocker at position, questionable hands, seems to play less and less
- Freddy Canteen (Fr.): Recruited as a wide receiver, decent speed, has done zilch
- Bo Dever (RS Fr.): Not recruited, slow, supposedly decent hands
- Da'Mario Jones, Jaron Dukes, Maurice Ways don't play at all
- Drake Harris is injured
Two of Michigan's early-season starters (Funchess, Norfleet) weren't recruited as receivers, a large contributor wasn't recruited at all, and three able-bodied guys are mired on the bench. Meanwhile, nobody in the receiving corps is exceeding expectations.
Did Michigan miss Frank Clark? Yes, I think they did. His replacement, Mario Ojemudia, had an okay game (5 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup), but Ojemudia is not a match for Clark. Clark was consistently overpowering offensive tackles, and he had reached a point where he was not committing the immature mistakes that plagued him early in his career. Ojemudia lacks the same strength, and there were a couple times where he ran too far upfield and allowed Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown to take off and run. I think Clark would have slowed down the running of Brown (18 carries, 87 yards, 1 touchdown). Obviously, it's nobody's fault but Clark's - I respect Hoke for booting him immediately, and I think Ojemudia did what he's able to do. It just sucks for Michigan and for his (alleged) victim that he's such a moron.
Can Michigan beat Ohio State and go to a bowl game? Yes. Ohio State lost earlier this season to a Virginia Tech team that is currently 5-6 after a double-overtime loss to Wake Forest by a score of 6-3. Ohio State almost lost to a 3-8 Indiana team yesterday, but they pulled it out with a 21-point fourth quarter. There are some chinks in the Buckeyes' armor, particularly defensively. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman had 228 yards rushing on 27 carries, including touchdowns of 90 and 52 yards. Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't had a running back like Tevin Coleman in a very long time. Even so, Drake Johnson has shown a decent burst (14 carries, 94 yards yesterday), and a healthy Devin Gardner gives you a chance on offense. The Buckeyes will be the overwhelming favorite, especially when they're playing for a chance at the playoff, but anything can happen.