Coming in to last weekend there were more questions than answers for the Michigan football team. Which team would show up? The team that outplayed then ranked Notre Dame, or the team that looked to lose in consecutive weeks to Akron and Uconn only to pull it out at the end. One thing was for certain, we were playing at the level of our competition and that would have to change or it was going to be another long game.
For the most part the team answered the bell and the game was never really close. Solid drives on offense and mostly stingy defense were the order of the day. By half time, almost everyone in the stadium was comfortable that we were looking at a win, but many questions remained.
On the offensive side of the ball, the big news story seemed to be that Devin Funchess moved to WR. Never a particularly good blocker and with great speed and size, this was the right move at the right time. Teams have trouble defending him because of this, and he fit into the scheme well. The offensive line was better, but not yet stellar, and best of all the game was turnover free.
On the defensive side of the ball, we were able to get more pressure on the quarterback, but that pressure wasn’t disciplined enough. The rush technique was definitely more effective, but all too often there were running lanes for the Quarterback and by the second half, the Quarterback draw mixed in with play-action passes to their version of Funchess (Big, tall receiver with speed) started to show some potential attack points for our later opponents. Blake Countess did come up with a 72 yard pick-6 interception late in the 4th quarter and Jibreel Black had a forced fumble early in the day to account for the 2 forced turnovers.
Special teams was very clean outside of the initial kickoff (another kick out of bounds?). Better yet of course was no turnovers and only two penalties on the day for 10 yards. Michigan punted 3 times with a 51.7 yard average. All in all a very solid performance by the team.
I felt the team came in focused in spite of the Homecoming festivities and put forth a very workman like effort to carry us to the win.
So, the two big areas of concern for me were pocket contain and handling the big receiver. Rushing the passer and getting to the quarterback is great, but you can’t leave him running lanes. This will become even more important when we play Northwestern and then Ohio State. We must close down the pocket, contain on the edges and make sure that we don’t leave running lanes up the middle that can be exploited. Here are a couple of pictures that show what I’m talking about.
Minnesota also showed that we were susceptible to passes to their big man Maxx Williams. Here are a few examples of the difficulty we had covering him.
And of course, we should have had a safety on Minnesota on this sequence, but we somehow missed the tackle and let him escape outside.
Still, all in all it was a very good game and it is really hard to criticize the team effort that was put forth. I just hope they get to Happy Valley prepared to put the wood to Penn State.
Here are some more pictures from the game, I hope you enjoy them! As always your comments and encouragement are welcomed and appreciated. You can comment here or just mention @jfk81 on twitter.