|Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press|
With a 42-13 victory over Minnesota, fans can breathe a little easier with this win. Michigan is 5-0, the Jug stays in Ann Arbor and the team has a little bit of regained momentum heading into a tough match-up against Penn State next weekend.
Before the page is turned on Minnesota, let’s take a look back and see the five things I learned from Minnesota.
1. It’s amazing what not turning the ball over does.
In the grand scheme of things, Devin Gardner had himself a nice game yesterday, finishing 13-17 for 235 yards and a touchdown. On top of that, Gardner finished with just a shade over 75% of his passes completed. Probably the biggest stat of the night is the turnover column: ZERO.
It’s amazing how effective the team can be when you are not turning the ball over and actually winning the turnover battles. Granted, to put this all in perspective, Michigan needs to start doing this on a more consistent basis and do it against better opponents. But, this team will grow with Gardner and also fail with Gardner. It’s a baby-step process.
2. Devin Funchess, a legitimate threat?
In what could be considered a “coming out party,” have we finally seen the emergence of Devin Funchess as a legitimate threat in the Michigan offense? Catching seven passes for 151 yards — both career highs — and a touchdown, this is the type of game that was expected from Funchess at the beginning of the year.
With Gallon receiving much of the focus from the defense, it was refreshing to see someone step up and even out some of the pressure. On top of that, Funchess’ size allows him to be a reliable deep threat as well. Funchess’ longest was a 46-yard catch and made a nice adjustment to the ball to secure the catch.
Considering the day Funchess had yesterday, it would make sense to keep him involved in the passing game. Perhaps moving him out to wide receiver on certain plays as well. Keeping Butt, Funchess and AJ Williams on the field at the same time is a good thing to have.
3. The “new look” offensive line was better, but it’s still early.
Shuffling Glasgow to center and plugging Bryant into the lineup was expected all week. Now that it finally happened, it’s hard to say if this is the permanent solution right now. They didn’t play horribly, only allowing one sack, but they didn’t exactly blow away Minnesota’s defensive line either. Gardner had only one rush for 17 yards, Fitzgerald Toussaint finished with 78 yards and two touchdowns, and Derrick Green also got in the action with a touchdown himself.
Gardner’s low rush yards could mean a few things, the coaches simply want him to stay put or the offensive line did a better job of maintaining their blocks. We will see what happens in the next few weeks to really make a determination where this offensive line is headed. Hopefully, we have seen the worst and the best is yet to come.
4. Blake Countess is a welcomed addition to the defense.
Arguably Michigan’s defensive MVP so far this season is Blake Countess. If there was a “comeback player of the year” for the team, he would also win it. It’s hard to remember the last time a defensive back has had four interceptions in a season. At any rate, Countess has been a welcomed addition to the defense. Granted, at least two of his four interceptions have been fortunate efforts, it’s still a game-changer when you have someone like number 18 out there. With a defensive back group that has somewhat struggled early on, it’s a consolation knowing you have a dependable player with Countess back there. Hopefully, this is the beginning for this sophomore’s “no fly zone” this season.
5. You can shut the “Start Shane Morris” crowd down.
As I said before, Devin Gardner had himself a pretty good game yesterday. The biggest takeaway from the quarterback standpoint was that he was basically mistake-free. Being sacked only once, he seemed fairly on point and didn’t suffer from happy feet. There were times where he was a bit inaccurate, but the philosophy was always to grow with Gardner. Remember, he’s basically had about a full-season’s worth of starts under his belt. He’s still growing as a quarterback, he’ll be alright.
The fact that people were clamoring for Shane Morris during Gardner’s struggles is laughable. Every great-to-not-so-great quarterbacks have their bad days, perhaps more than some. But, just because he has struggled mightily in the past doesn’t mean Gardner is a bad quarterback. Michigan is in a good spot with him and hopefully that continues to next season as well.
Penn State this week will be a big test, he must be mistake-free again if Michigan plans on coming into Happy Valley with a victory.