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November 18, 2012

Report Card: Grading U-M after a win over Iowa

Gameday Grades 2012

Rushing offense

B+ There was nothing conventional about Michigan's running attack in a pro style sense. U-M's offense struggled out of the I formation, and it didn't help that junior Fitz Toussaint went down with a leg injury in the first quarter. Sophomore Thomas Rawls handled that responsibility but managed only 22 yards on eight carries.

The running game was at its best when senior quarterback Denard Robinson was on the field. He managed 98 yards on 13 carries despite being no threat to throw, averaging 7.5 yards per rush with a long of 40 on an array of read options, draws, straight runs - even a double reverse. U-M rushed for 201 yards on 38 carries minus a victory formation kneel down at the end, junior quarterback Devin Gardner scoring three times on the ground.

Passing offense

A- Gardner continues to prove he's no fluke, showing off his skills for the third straight game. Many of his 18 completions (in 23 attempts) came off play action, and he completed six passes for 18 yards or more to an array of receivers. He avoided the rush (wasn't sacked), used good judgment on when to scramble and when to throw the ball away, and his receivers helped him again by finding the seams and running great routes.

Gardner's only miss came on a leaping interception by Micah Hyde on which redshirt junior receiver Jeremy Gallon was open. Until that interception, Gardner enjoyed a 245 passer rating. He'd been doing it without a consistent running game for two weeks - the possibilities are endless in the last few games with Robinson behind him.

Rushing defense

C This is one of the areas in which head coach Brady Hoke was most displeased in the first half. The defensive linemen didn't do a good job closing their gaps or using their hands to get off blocks, creating holes in the defense early. The Hawkeyes rushed for 70 first half yards and finished with 128, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

The Hawkeyes' first touchdown drive proved the most disappointing. They rushed for 37 yards and mixed in play action to the tight end to march down the field in 14 plays to tie it at 7-7, facing only two third and short situations along the way. Iowa registered three rushing plays over 12 yards in moving the ball better than expected on the ground, though much of their success came in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt.

Passing defense

C The Wolverines gave up only two receptions to wide receivers, and they came when the game was all but out of reach. Safeties and linebackers struggled to cover the Iowa tight ends, however - the Hawkeyes got 11 receptions for 123 yards out of the position and 43 on the first touchdown drive alone in exploiting the Michigan defense.

The Hawkeyes also had some success leaking running backs out of the backfield for solid gainers, including a late, 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Weisman. There weren't many really big plays, and three of the biggest (37, 20 and 15 yards) came in the fourth quarter with the score 42-10. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison won't be pleased, though, when he watches the film.

Special teams

B- Michigan only had to punt one time, a 43-yarder by junior Will Hagerup. There were no field goal attempts - only touchdowns - and no big returns to speak of. The Hawkeyes did a solid job in coverage on two kick returns by freshman Dennis Norfleet, and Gallon only returned one punt, tackled immediately.

Kick coverage continues to be a bit of a concern. Minus coverage on one squib kick, the Wolverines gave up 117 yards on four returns, including a 36-yarder, and there was plenty of room on the runbacks. Sophomore kicker Matt Wile put two of his seven kickoffs through the end zone - it would be beneficial if he could use the big leg to his advantage more often down the stretch.


B The offensive game plan had Iowa guessing from the outset, with Gardner and Robinson combining for 449 yards between the rush and the pass. The Wolverines marched for six touchdowns on their first six drives, facing three yards or less on five of their seven third down plays in the first half. Michigan finished nine of 12 on third down and mounted five scoring drives of 70 yards or more. The offense has evolved at the right time - a week before heading to Columbus to face an undefeated Ohio State team.

The defense should have been better against an offense with limited options. Iowa managed six of 14 on third down, and the Wolverines were slow to adjust in covering the tight end, one of the Hawkeyes' few options offensively. The front seven wasn't at its best against the run, either, though missing sophomore linebacker Desmond Morgan.

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