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November 25, 2012

Report Card: Grading Michigan in a loss at Ohio State

Gameday Grades 2012

Rushing offense

C+ Senior Denard Robinson managed 122 yards on 10 carries (12.2 per rush), including a 38-yarder on his first run and a 67-yard touchdown that put Michigan up just before the half. U-M managed only 4.0 yards per rush overall, though, because the running backs (once again) were ineffective. Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith combined for 14 yards on 10 carries, and that included an eight-yarder by Smith. No other running back run went for more than two yards, but they carried the ball on three critical third and shorts in the second half. None were successful.

Robinson, meanwhile, only carried the ball four times in the second half (for minus-two yards), and none of them were from the running back position. The creativity many expected to see after watching Robinson and junior quarterback Devin Gardner on the field at the same time last week at Iowa just wasn't there. It's fair to ask, 'why not?'

Passing offense

C+ Gardner enjoyed an outstanding first half, throwing for 107 yards (including a 75-yard catch and run by fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree) despite sketchy protection. He was sacked three times and lost the ball on one that prevented a field goal attempt, but he controlled the game and seemed poised and in command.

The second was a different story. Though he hit some passes, finishing 11 of 20, he was picked off once, threw late on at least two others (including one in which Roundtree was wide open) and lost another fumble on another sack. Receivers also ran routes short of the sticks on a few occasions, leading to the third and shorts the offense couldn't convert.

Rushing defense

C The run stoppers did a relatively good job keeping OSU quarterback Braxton Miller from getting to the edge, with one exception - a 42-yard, third quarter run. Miller still managed only 2.8 yards per carry, though a good chunk of his positive yardage was erased by 51 yards lost on sack yardage.

The bulk of the Buckeyes' success came between the tackles with Carlos Hyde, who finished with 146 net yards on 26 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per rush. He also didn't lose yardage on a single run, taking advantage of gaps up front and overzealous Michigan linebackers to pick up yardage consistently in four and five-yard chunks. OSU rushed for 207 yards and closed the game out down the stretch, though the U-M defense did its part to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone in the second half and keep the game close while the offense sputtered.

Passing defense

C+ Miller burned Michigan with a 52-yard pass on the opening drive, leading to the Buckeyes' first touchdown, part of a first half in which he completed 11 of 13 for 156 yards and a score. He only managed 33 yards passing in the second half, completing three of four passes - part of the reason the Wolverines were able to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone in the stanza.

The Buckeyes did average 13.5 yards per catch, but the passing game wasn't the concern after the first big play. The secondary was kept off balance much of the afternoon by Ohio State's success in the running game on early downs.

Special teams

B+ Michigan scored after recovering a fumbled punt, didn't allow a big return in either the punt or kick return (7.5 on four punt returns, 47 yards on two kickoff returns) and got 47.8 yards per punt on four kicks from junior Will Hagerup. Sophomore Matt Wile, too, did a solid job on placement with his kickoffs, putting two of four through the end zone.

Michigan's return teams weren't great, but the Buckeyes did their part in angling kickoffs shorter and away from freshman Dennis Norfleet (who managed a 27-yard return on his only run back). Redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons didn't attempt a field goal but made his three extra points.


D The first half play calling couldn't have been much better, the Wolverines moving at will in mixing up run and pass for 219 yards. The defense struggled, however, allowing 240 yards and 20 points. The last three came on a 52-yard field goal set up by a squib kick with more than 40 seconds still remaining the half, allowing the Buckeyes to seize momentum. Those three points would be big.

Third and short offense was the backbreaker in the second half. The coaches called on their running backs to try and pick up short yardage each time - each time they fell short, forcing punts. Robinson only carried the ball four times in the second half, and he and Gardner were rarely on the field at the same time. That left U-M short of playmakers, especially in Fitz Toussaint's absence.

A fourth and three run with Robinson from the Michigan 48 to open the second half - one that went nowhere -- is one Hoke would probably like to have back. The second half adjustments on defense, however, kept the Wolverines in the game.

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