CFN Take: Michigan Battles, But Loses To OSU
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CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2014


2014 Michigan Wolverines ... Head Coach: Brady Hoke

Michigan Wolverines

2014 Schedule
2014 Record: 5-7

Aug. 30 Appalachian St W 52-14
Sep. 6 at Notre Dame L 31-0
Sep. 13 Miami Univ. W 34-10
Sep. 20 Utah L 26-10
Sep. 27 Minnesota L 30-14
Oct. 4 at Rutgers L 26-24
Oct. 11 Penn State W 18-13
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at Michigan St L 35-11
Nov. 1 Indiana W 34-10
Nov. 8 at Northwestern W 10-9
Nov. 15 OPEN DATE
Nov. 22 Maryland L 23-16
Nov. 29 at Ohio State L 42-28
Nov. 29 at Ohio State 42, Michigan 28
And You Care Because … Ohio State won the rivalry, but it lost its star as QB J.T. Barrett got carted off the field with a leg injury. The rest of the Buckeyes stepped up when needed, with Ezekiel Elliott breaking a 21-21 tie with a two-yard touchdown run, and busted out a 44-yard scoring dash on 4th-and-1 to get some breathing room. Darron Lee put it away on a 33-yard Devin Gardner fumble return for a touchdown. The Wolverines fought hard all game, controlling the clock with three good touchdown drives with Drake Johnson running for two short scores and Gardner finding Jake Butt for a 12-yard score, but Barrett was terrific with a six-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett and two scoring runs before getting hurt.
What Else? Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett completed 13-of-21 passes for 176 yards and a score, and ran 15 times for 89 yards before getting hurt.
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 22-of-32 passes 233 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran 14 times for 21 yards
- Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott ran 17 times for 121 yards and two scores
- Time of possession: Michigan 34:05 – Ohio State 25:55
Game Rating: B

Nov. 22 Maryland 23, at Michigan 16
And You Care Because … The two teams traded field goals in the first half, with Maryland’s Brad Craddock hitting from 38, 41 and 21 yards out, and Michigan’s Matt Wile scoring from 22, 33 and 26 yards away for a 9-9 tie in the locker room. Devin Gardner ran for a 15-yard score to give the Wolverine the lead in the third quarter, but it was all Terps in the fourth as a roughing the punter penalty kept a scoring drive alive finishing with an eight-yard C.J. Brown run, and Wes Brown gave them the lead for good on a one-yard run with just under six minutes to play.
What Else? Maryland QB C.J. Brown completed 13-of-24 passes for 165 yards, and ran 18 times for a team-leading 87 yards and a touchdown
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 13-of-24 passes for 106 yards and a pick, and ran 14 times for 82 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: Michigan 398 – Maryland 312
- Michigan RB Drake Johnson ran 14 times for 94 yards
Game Rating: B-

Nov. 8 Michigan 10, at Northwestern 9
And You Care Because … Down seven, Northwestern got a three-yard Tony Jones touchdown catch with three seconds to play. Instead of trying for the tie with the extra point, the Wildcats went for the win and the two-point conversion, but QB Trevor Siemian slipped, fell down, and Michigan came away with the win. Michigan started the scoring on a three-yard De’Veon Smith run midway through the third, and the two teams traded field goals in the fourth, with Matt Wile putting the Wolverines ahead with just over three minutes to play on a 37-yard field goal. NU went 74 yards in 14 plays for the touchdown before the ill-fated conversion attempt.
What Else? Michigan RB De’Veon Smith ran 18 times for 121 yards and a score
- Third down conversions: Northwestern 10-of-21 – Michigan 1-of-12
- Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian completed 32-of-49 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 11-of-24 passes for 109 yards and two picks
Game Rating: C+

Nov. 1 at Michigan 34, Indiana 10
And You Care Because … Michigan’s defense clamped down on the Indiana offense, while the Wolverine attack got up to a 17-0 first half lead on a 35-yard Matt Wile field goal and two Devin Gardner touchdown passes with a six-yarder to Keith Heitzman and a 12-yarder to Amara Darboh. Indiana finally got on the board with a 38-yard Griffin Oakes field goal, but Michigan kept cruising with two Drake Johnson touchdown runs and a 23-yard Wile field goal.
What Else? Total yards: Michigan 404 – Indiana 191
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 22-of-29 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran five times for 18 yards
- Indiana RB Tevin Coleman ran 27 times for 108 yards
- Michigan RB Drake Johnson ran 16 times for 122 yards and two scores
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 25 at Michigan State 35, Michigan 11
And You Care Because … After a sluggish start offensively, Michigan State took care of business with Jeremy Langford running for touchdowns from two yards out to start the scoring and five yards out to end it. Michigan still hung around, but that ended in the second half with a R.J. Williamson pick six for the Spartans, followed up by a 70-yard Tony Lippett touchdown catch. The Spartan defense dominated, but allowed a one-yard De’Veon Smith touchdown run and a two-point conversion late in the fourth. The Spartans were never really threatened.
What Else? Total yards: Michigan State 446 – Michigan 186
- Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford ran 35 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 13-of-28 passes for 121 yards and two picks
- Michigan State QB Connor Cook completed 12-of-22 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: C-

Oct. 11 at Michigan 18, Penn State 13
And You Care Because … Michigan’s defense stuffed Penn State throughout the second half on the way to 11 unanswered points with Matt Wile nailing field goals from 45, 42 and 37 yards away for the win. Devin Gardner threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess, but was knocked out for the game for a while with a leg injury before returning in the second half. Penn State got two Sam Ficken field goals and a ten-yard touchdown catch from DaeSean Hamilton, but the offense managed just 214 yards and couldn’t get on the board over the final 42 minutes.
What Else? Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 16-of-24 passes for 192 yards and a score with a pick, and ran for 18 yards
- Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg completed 21-of-32 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Rushing yards: Michigan 31 carries for 64 yards – Penn State 35 carries for 54 yards
- Total yards: Michigan 256 – Penn State 214
Game Rating: C

Oct. 4 at Rutgers 26, Michigan 24
And You Care Because … Gary Nova threw for 404 yards and three touchdown passes including scoring plays to Andrew Turzilli from 80 and 14 yards out on the way to a 26-17 lead. Michigan stayed in the game on short touchdown runs from Devin Gardner and Derrick Smith, and Gardner ran for another touchdown from 19 yards out midway through the fourth to help the Wolverines pull within two. But they’d get one more chance, and they couldn’t make the most of it as Matt Wile’s 55-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
What Else? Rutgers QB Gary Nova completed 22-of-39 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 13-of-22 passes for 178 yards and a pick, and ran ten times for 40 yards and two touchdowns
- Third down conversions: Rutgers 8-of-16 – Michigan 4-of-11
- Penalties: Rutgers 9 for 85 yards – Michigan 3 for 30 yards
Game Rating: B

Sept. 27 Minnesota 30, at Michigan 14
And You Care Because … In an utter disaster for the Wolverines, they got on the board first with a ten-yard De’Veon Smith touchdown run, and then the roof caved in. Minnesota scored 30 straight points as Ryan Santoso hit three field goals, Mitch Leidner ran for a ten-yard score, and De’Vondre Campbell returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown. Michigan’s offense came up with just 171 yards and didn’t get back into the end zone until late on a three-yard Devin Gardner touchdown run.
What Else? Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 14-of-22 passes for 167 yards and a score – the passing game worked after a lousy performance against San Jose State – and ran for a score
- Michigan QB Shane Morris completed 7-of-19 passes for 49 yards and a pick, and Devin Gardner completed 3-of-6 passes for 39 yards and ran five times for 23 yards and a touchdown
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 32 times for 183 yards and caught three passes for 50 yards
- Rushing yards: Minnesota 206 – Michigan 83
Game Rating: C-

Sept. 20 Utah 26, at Michigan 10
And You Care Because … A two-hour lightning delay only delayed the inevitable for Michigan and coach Brady Hoke, who fell to visiting Utah. The Utes took a lead on an Andy Phillips field goal that it would never relinquish. They scored the game’s final 16 points, nine off the right foot of Phillips, who capped the scoring with a 50-yarder just before weather conditions sent the teams back into the locker rooms.
What Else? Utah QB Travis Wilson overcame a nasty fall on his head, a year after his career was almost derailed by a head injury, to finish with 197 total yards and a touchdown pass to Dres Anderson.
- The quarterback situation in Ann Arbor is a mess. Devin Gardner and Shane Morris went 18-of-39 combined for 190 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
- The Utes survived today, but they’ll need to be more efficient on offense to keep thriving in the Pac-12. They were just 6-of-17 on third downs, while attempting a few too many field goals.
- For the second time in the last three games, Michigan failed to produce an offensive touchdown. Hoke is facing intense pressure, but so is offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Game Rating: C

Sept. 13 at Michigan 34, Miami University 10
And You Care Because … It wasn’t a dominant bounceback performance, but the Wolverines pulled away from a 10-10 tie with 24 unanswered points. Devin Gardner threw two touchdown passes including a 29-yarder to Jake Butt, and Derrick Green ran for two short scores.
What Else? Michigan turned the ball over three times, but outgained Miami 460 yards to 198.
- Michigan RB Derrick Green ran 22 times for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
- Miami ran 24 times for 33 yards. QB Andrew Hendrix completed 12-of-26 passes for 165 yards and a score with a pick
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed 13-of-20 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns with a pick
Game Rating: C-

Sept. 6 at Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0
And You Care Because … Everett Golson threw three touchdown passes with two to Amir Carlisle, and the Irish D was swarming, in a dominant performance in the final game – for now – in the rivalry. Cam McDaniel added a one-yard scoring run and Kyle Brindza came up with a 43-yard field goal in the blowout.
What Else? Michigan outgained Notre Dame 289 yards to 280, but four turnovers and mistake after mistake turned deadly. The Wolverine offensive front that was so great against Appalachian State didn’t generate any sort of a push.
- Everett Golson’s Heisman push is in full swing, completing 23-of-34 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns, but he was held to -14 rushing yards.
- The Michigan defensive front was terrific. Notre Dame’s ground game was held to 54 yards with Jake Ryan registering 11 tackles and the team coming up with eight tackles for loss. The O was another story with Devin Gardner completing 19-of-32 passes for 189 yards with three picks, but Devin Funchess caught nine passes for 107 yards.
- Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith was fantastic making ten tackles with a tackle for loss, while safety Elijah Shumate made ten stops with a pick.
Game Rating: D+

Aug. 30 at Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14
And You Care Because … There wasn’t any drama this time around with Devin Gardner throwing three touchdown passes to Devin Funchess in the first quarter, and the special teams coming up with a blocked punt for a score on the way to a 42-0 lead. De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green added touchdown runs before the dogs were called off.
What Else? Perfect. That’s exactly what Michigan needed to do. Blow off the goofy talk about a repeat upset, and relax the fan base a little bit by coming up with a dominant performance. Devin Gardner was perfect, completing 13-of-14 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns.
- Appalachian State simply ran into a buzzsaw, but Terrence Upshaw ran for 109 yards and Marcus Cox averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
- Oh yeah, the running game. There’s no need to get too excited quite yet, but considering how bad things were last year, 170 yards and a score from Derrick Green, and 115 yards and two scores from De’Veon Smith matters.
- For those of you wondering, Jabrill Peppers made two tackles. He didn’t win the Heisman.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

So why isn’t this working? Why can’t Michigan be back to being among the superpowers of superpowers again? What’s missing?

Rich Rodriguez is a fantastic college football coach. He brought West Virginia to the brink of a national title appearance, and he’s doing a good job turning around Arizona. However, the RichRod era at Michigan was doomed from the start for a program that needed to take a big step back in order to rebuild and reconfigure to go from Big Ten title-good to national championship-good. There was no patience, no defense, and no desire to keep him around, even though Michigan appeared to be right on the verge of reaping the rewards of change.

In comes Brady Hoke, another top-shelf college football coach who made Ball State - Ball State - a winner and was great for San Diego State in rental mode before taking the Michigan gig. He took advantage of the pieces that Rodriguez put in place on the way to a great 2011 season complete with a Sugar Bowl victory.

But again, he was a new coach and Michigan underwent a change overall in philosophies, and partly because of the changes, the last two seasons have been awful by Maize and Blue standards, bottoming out by losing five of the last six last season – and needing a minor miracle to get that one win over Northwestern – finished off with a lifeless loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. It wasn’t quite as embarrassing or bad as the 52-14 disaster against Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator, but that marked the official end of the RichRod experience. The loss to the Wildcats to end last year did nothing more than put the pressure on.

Hoke has recruited extremely well – coming up with one of the nation’s top classes in 2013 – and has a ton of young talent in place to compete at the highest of levels. Does that mean that Michigan is on the verge of going 2011 all over again – with some dud seasons building toward a massive campaign – or is this really just the third best team in the new Big Ten East behind Michigan State and Ohio State?

It’s Michigan, so there’s no real excuse for any down years or rebuilding, but the reality is that it really has taken a while to talent up. The offensive line was the biggest issue last season, failing to generate any semblance of a push for the ground attack that finished 102nd in the country, and the inconsistencies were a major problem. The offense that sputtered and coughed until the final moments against Akron and UConn blew up against Penn State, Minnesota and Indiana.

The defense did a decent job, holding tough against the run and holding its own when the offense was struggling to find its identity, but it has to be better. It might not have been as Ohio State’s in terms of pass defense, but it wasn’t Michigan State’s D, and that’s where the standard is now.

No, so really, why isn’t this working? Why have the Wolverines had more six-loss seasons in the last two than Ohio State has had since 2000? Why has Michigan State turned into the best college football team in the state? Why isn’t Hoke’s team considered a national title contender, with some suggesting it shouldn’t even be ranked in the top 25?

It’s Michigan, so eventually this really will work and the program will become fantastic again, but this is the key season in terms of direction. Is it just going to require a little bit more patience, or is there a bigger problem in terms of the right coaching staff and the right fight to go up against Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio?

Hoke’s going to get one more shot at this, but one more season like last year will mean Michigan will have to rebuild all over again.

What to watch for on offense: Can the offensive line start to generate a push? This was the big rebuilding area going into 2013, and even with Taylor Lewan to anchor things, the production wasn’t there for the ground game. The backs didn’t quite do their part, but there’s no reason Michigan should be averaging 3.3 yards per carry and finish the year with only 1,634 yards and 27 scores.

The coaching staff is looking to make things a little easier, but it’s going to be yet another year of adjustment needing newcomer Mason Cole to shine in place of Lewan and left tackle and hoping for even more youth and inexperience to come together right away. There’s talent in the backfield – at least the hope is for Derrick Green to break out to combine with De’Veon Smith to provide a 1-2 punch – but the runners need room to move. Considering Michigan State and Ohio State are loaded on the defensive front, the Wolverine front five is the key to the season.

What to watch for on defense: Lots of moving around to try to find the right combination at linebacker. The line wasn’t special, and it didn’t generate enough of a push into the backfield, but it wasn’t a total weakness or liability. The linebacking corps was also fine, for the most part, but it wasn’t a dominant force. This year, though, the front four has the potential to be fantastic, especially on the ends.

The key will be where to put Jake Ryan at linebacker now that he’s a year removed from the knee injury that kept him limited him last season. While he’s probably best as a hybrid outside linebacker/pass rusher, he’ll see time in the middle even though Desmond Morgan returns after finishing third on the team in tackles. Cam Gordon is gone from the strongside after leading the team in tackles, and while that’s where Ryan could slide in and shine, but James Ross has big-time upside and Royce-Jenkins Stone is a riser. Will Morgan be moved to one of the outside spots? Will Ryan stay inside? Expect lots of tinkering.

The team will be far better if… Michigan can run the ball and run it some more. Out of the 27 rushing touchdowns scored last year, six came against Central Michigan and seven came against Indiana. 24 of the scores came in the seven wins, and three came in the six losses. How much does running the ball well matter for Michigan football? When the Wolverines run for 190 yards or more – not exactly an impossible mark to hit for a top football program – they’re 22-1 over the last four years with the only loss coming to Penn State in 2010. Go back even further to 2008 – the first year under Rodriguez – and Michigan is 7-25 when rushing for one score or less and 34-10 when scoring twice on the ground or more. Last season, when the running game worked, Michigan was fine. When it sputtered and failed to crank out yards in chunks, things got ugly.

The Schedule: It’s all about the big road games. Will it be 2007 all over again with Appalachian State coming in to open the season? No, not this time, and hosting Miami University will be a layup and battling with Utah should toughen the team up for the Big Ten regular season, but September will be made or broken in South Bend against Notre Dame on the night of September 6th.

The fight for the Little Brown Jug against Minnesota kicks off the Big Ten slate, and it’s not that bad early going to Rutgers and hosting Penn State in a revenge game before getting a week off to rest up for Michigan State. The Wolverines have to go on the road to face the Spartans, and then, again, it’s not that bad, hosting Indiana and going to Northwestern for the second year in a row. The final week off comes before the regular season home finale against Maryland and not before the road game at Ohio State.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Devin Gardner. At least the hope is that he’ll be the team’s best offensive star with the upside and ability to carry the team to something special. Can he be the best quarterback in the Big Ten? Can he be the type of talent who makes everything happen? Around long enough and part of enough key moments to know what he’s doing, experience isn’t an issue, and neither are athleticism, arm, size, or skills. Consistency is another issue, but if he can cut down in the picks and start moving the offense a bit better on a regular basis, he’ll be doing his job. If not, Shane Morris will be right there waiting to step in.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Jake Ryan. He didn’t look like the Jake Ryan of 2012 after trying to get back fast from a torn ACL, but now he’s ready, and now he looks like he’s about to tear up the Big Ten. A great pass rusher on the outside, and an active talent on the inside, he’ll be a statistical star in the middle as a run stopper as well as a playmaker in the backfield. The versatility will make him a hot prospect in the pro world next offseason – as long as he can prove that he’s 100% again and ready to show the same explosion.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore RB Derrick Green. Name the offensive lineman and you probably have the key player to the season, and Gardner needs to be fantastic, but it’s time for Green to be the be-all-end-all back he was expected to be from the moment he stepped on campus. His blocking wasn’t great, and he wasn’t able to get into much of a groove, but the No. 1 back – some thought the No. 1 overall recruit – should’ve been better than 270 yards and two touchdowns averaging 3.3 yards per carry. With Green working in tandem with De’Veon Smith, the Wolverine running game has to get going, but the offense needs a top-shelf back. It needs Green.

The season will be a success if ... Michigan wins the East. You don’t call yourself the Leaders and Best and shoot for second place in the division. Yeah, the Ohio State and Michigan State games are on the road, and yeah, those two teams might be better, but there’s enough experience – and enough desperation – to demand for something more and for it all to come together. Will the season really be a success if the Wolverines go 10-2 with losses to the Spartans and Buckeyes? Sure, but it’s not going to feel like it.

Key game: Oct. 25 at Michigan State. With the Ohio State game on the road, it’s not crazy to suggest that there’s no chance to win the East without winning in East Lansing. The Buckeye game is always the big one, and this year it could be for the Big Ten East title if all goes well, but the program and the coaching staff have to solve the Michigan State problem after losing six of the last seven. There have been some down moments over the last several seasons, but the 29-6 loss to the Spartans last season was one of the lowest points with 168 yards of total offense and -48 rushing yards.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Time of Possession: Michigan 31:17 – Opponents 28:38
- Sacks: Opponents 36 for 270 yards – Michigan 25 for 182 yards
- Kickoff Return Average: Opponents 23.3 yards – Michigan 22.1 yards
 
- 2014 Michigan Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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