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November 3, 2012

Report Card: Grading U-M in a 35-13 win at Minnesota

Gameday Grades 2012

Rushing offense

C Once gain, it took one long run from redshirt junior running back Fitz Toussaint to bolster the average, and this one came with the issue no longer in doubt. Toussaint ran 12 times for 33 yards before capping the scoring with a fourth down, 41-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Thomas Rawls showed signs of life with 27 first half yards, and junior quarterback Devin Gardner picked up most of his 44 gross yards scrambling.

Overall, however, the line blocking was average, struggling to get a push against a solid Minnesota front. U-M averaged only 3.8 yards per carry, and the long first down run of the first half came on a jet sweep by redshirt junior receiver Jeremy Gallon. The Wolverines managed only five yards on six carries in the third quarter.

Passing offense

A- This might even be a little low given the circumstances - junior quarterback Devin Gardner's first start, and with only a handful of practices under his belt in the last eight weeks. Gardner shook off some first quarter rust - including a first quarter interception - to finish with 234 yards passing, completing 12 of 18 throws. Those numbers included two dropped passes and an improvised, 45-yard touchdown pass to junior Drew Dileo in the second quarter that changed the game, tying it at seven.

More than anything, Gardner looked the part. He threw the ball away when he needed to, showed an ability to escape pressure and make people miss and hit receivers in stride, including Gallon on a 47-yarder. He showed great poise in finding fifth-year receiver Roy Roundtree for 17 yards out of his end zone and got great catches from Gallon (for touchdown), Roundtree (47 yards) and Dileo to complete a solid day.

Rushing defense

B- The numbers weren't huge - 128 yards on 38 carries for a 3.4 yard per carry average - but the Michigan defenders were disappointed in the effort. Running back Rodrick Williams averaged 4.2 yards on nine carries, Minnesota notched three carries over nine yards and the yardage was distributed equally between halves (64 each). The Gophers rushed nine times for 40 yards in the first half and moved the ball enough to control field position for a good portion of the first quarter.

Short yardage running plays when it mattered, though - that was all Michigan. The Wolverines responded on three of four third or fourth and ones and less, including one at their 41 in the first half that temporarily got U-M out of a field position bind. Linebackers Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan were the leading tacklers with 10 and nine, respectively.

Passing defense

B+ The Michigan pass defense allowed only one play over 14 yards, a 32-yarder on a well designed play. Fifth-year senior cornerback J.T. Floyd jumped routes three times, breaking up two and nearly picking one, and was solid despite a pair of pass interference penalties (one questionable). A linebacker seemed to blow a coverage on the Gophers' only touchdown, which came on another well designed play.

Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson finished 13 of 29 for only 142 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. The Gophers took a number of shots down the field but didn't convert, missing on some throws (though most were well covered).

Special teams

D There was nothing special about the Wolverines' special teams, head coach Brady Hoke admitted. Junior punter Will Hagerup shanked too out of bounds (22 and 26 yards), leading to field position woes. A block in the back on a 20-plus yard punt return by Gallon - behind the play - pushed U-M back to its own 10 instead of the 30, and kick returner Dennis Norfleet was held in check with only 39 yards on two returns.

Coverage teams were the only bright spot. The Wolverines held the dangerous Gophers kick return team to only 82 yards on four returns. Redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons was bailed out of a missed extra point by an offsides penalty.


B The game plan always looks better when you score toudhdowns, and the Wolverines did, finally punching it in instead of settling for field goals. There was a solid mix of play action with Gardner and running plays to keep the defense honest. The offense rallied after struggling early, dominating the last three quarters, but there were uncharacteristic missed assignments and lack of discipline early.

The defense, meanwhile, wasn't at its best, but good enough. Holding any team to 275 yards per play is impressive, especially when you're playing behind the eight ball in terms of field position. The Wolverines found a way without their captain on the field, and they're right in the thick of the Big Ten race as a result.

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