Michigan went up to TCF Bank Stadium for the first time and walked away with a win against the Gophers. What's more, the Wolverines walked away with an answer to the question: what the hell do we do without Denard?
1. Sometime late in the first quarter I was exchanging text messages with an old friend from Michigan who has spent most every Saturday this fall stuck in classes for his MBA while Michigan plays. With little to no knowledge of what was going on I was filling him in on the misery:
"The offense is going nowhere"
"The defense can't hold if every drive starts at midfield"
"We are going to lose this game. It isn't going to be close."
Yeah, I'm a bit dramatic when it comes to Michigan football, and I definitely jumped to conclusions on that one, but it goes to show just how different the first quarter was from the the three that followed.
Devin Gardner spent that first quarter looking like a wide receiver thrown in at quarterback at the last second. However, starting with the long drive that tied the game in the second quarter you saw the game slow down for Gardner, saw him start handling the pressure with aplomb, and eventually it came together. Gardner was a quarterback. A pretty good one too.
I'll spare you the fawning praise (as well as the Minnesota disclaimers that most certainly apply) to just say that it was nice to see Gardner look like the quarterback we all thought he would be when he first pledged to be a Wolverine.
2. And for every bit of success that Gardner was able to wring from the game, there seemed to be an equal amount of floundering in the run game. While the final numbers look respectable -- 155 yards on 41 rushes for 3.8 ypc and three touchdowns -- that obscures just how bad the tailbacks once again performed.
Thomas Rawls got a lot of snaps three weeks after many thought he would start getting the greater share of backfield duties. For his trouble he finished the game with 43 yards on 16 carries for 2.7 yards and a touchdown. Fitz Toussaint didn't do much better. He tacked on a 41 yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the game, but before that he had 12 carries for 29 yards and 2.4 ypc.
Without the contributions of Devin Gardner (44 yards on seven carries for a touchdown) and Jeremy Gallon (two carries for 21 yards) Michigan would have been held to one of the lowest yardage totals of Minnesota's season. This was a defense that came into the game allowing an average of 178 yards and 4.8 ypc to opponents. Michigan didn't match either of those numbers.
At this point in the season it is time to quit hoping that the tailback portion of the running game starts to click and start to hope that Michigan can cobble together enough of a ground game with Gallon and the quarterbacks to keep up with Ohio State's offense at the end of the season.
3. Thankfully, the Michigan defense is continuing its stellar play up front. The Wolverines held Minnesota to a pedestrian day on the ground (132 yards on 37 carries for 3.5 ypc). It wasn't a shut down day, but all told Minnesota was held under 300 yards for the game while converting only four of its 14 third-down attempts.
The worrying part of all of this was that Michigan's corners once again looked suspect. JT Floyd continues to get picked on, and in this one he didn't always hold up well. Raymon Taylor, meanwhile, plays like a first year starter and true sophomore.
You better believe Urban Meyer is looking for ways to exploit the outside coverage.
4. Will Hagerup, where did you go? Two punts under 30 yards? Let's not do that again.
On to reactions from around the blogosphere:
Playing receiver, you know what kinds of balls you don't like," he said. "It really helps in practice because when you throw a bad ball, you have to re-do it, and you get really tired re-running routes. A quarterback doesn't really get tired because he's only dropping back. "It just helps me appreciate what they do.
As the Michigan offense struggled in recent weeks, the receivers accepted quite a bit of blame. They hadn't run precise routes and had their share of drops, especially against Nebraska, digging backup quarterback Russell Bellomy a hole. In Saturday's 35-13 win over Minnesota, they did the opposite, bailing out quarterback Devin Gardner a number of times -- ironic considering he was a part of their position group until a week ago.
Evanescent - The Hoover Street Rag
I think one of the hardest things college football fans have to reconcile is the ephemeral nature of players. When you consider depth charts, redshirting, and the like, we may get about three years with them at most, four if we're really lucky. We get to know them, we come to appreciate them for what they can do, and then, like that, as quickly as they came, they are gone, leaving only memories, and occasionally questions of what might have been.
We knew Denard was leaving us, just as in 2007, we knew that Mike Hart, Chad Henne, and Jake Long were leaving us. We had high hopes for these senior years, but we knew there would be challenges. 2007 went in a bizarre direction, obviously, but what makes me sad about it is not even "The Horror" or "Sucks Unlimited". No, it's seeing Mike Hart in a toque against Illinois, or Mallett playing against Wisconsin because Henne couldn't go. We lost out on a last great season of Henne and Hart because they were injured, and even the great ride off in to the Florida sunset of that Citrus Bowl win still left "what might have been."
Stretch run to Indy - Maize and Blue News
If Penn State does win, it gives Michigan a chance, but that would of course be predicated on the Wolverines winning out. While Devin Gardner played well against the Golden Gophers, the Maize and Blue need Robinson back to have the best shot in the stretch run. After the Penn State meeting, Nebraska gets much easier matchups against Minnesota and Iowa. The Wolverines have a tougher remaining schedule with Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State.
So I’m following Brandin Hawthorne into the TCF Stadium tunnel after the game as he toted the jug back to the locker room. I got a light bump from someone passing by and it was enough to jar my iPhone out of my left hand. As I was turning to grab, a U-M player was already reaching down in stride and calmly scooping it up off the cement. Devin Gardner, who had just finished up an interview, handed me my phone and I thanked him and I mumbled something like, "Nice game." I’m not sure if there were any elderly ladies needing an escort on a crosswalk but I’m certain Gardner was there for them as well.
Dr. Sap’s Decals - MVictors
DEVIN GARDNER – If you’re like me, earlier this year you watched the UM Spring Game and paid close attention to DG. To me, he showed back in April that the game had slowed down for him and he was much more comfortable in the pocket making plays. Maybe all that film study paid off. He must have also been watching the tapes of Jim Harbaugh – especially his rainbow TD pass to Ken Higgins against Indiana in 1986. Gardner’s TD pass to Dileo was much the same, except DG threw his on a ROPE – WOW!!! His performance evoked three words from me: Poise, Confidence and WOW!!
Michigan 35, Minnesota 13 - Touch the Banner
Here is where I grumble about cornerbacks. Teams have been picking on J.T. Floyd for the past few weeks, and once again he was beaten several times. Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson missed on several, but sometimes it didn't matter because Floyd bailed him out by getting called for pass interference two or three times. Raymon Taylor didn't have a great game, either, and picked up a pass interference call himself. I am looking forward to a time when Michigan can put two solid corners on the field at the same time. Taylor has a chance to be one, but it's been a while since the Wolverines had two.
Michigan - Minnesota Reaction - Tremendous
Devin got his chance, and delivered: Devin Gardner has been adamant for quite a while now about considering himself a quarterback. Yesterday, he showed that he is a quarterback and in the process, may have allowed fans to breathe a sigh of relief going into next season. It took a quarter, but the big play to Dileo, created in part by Devin's improvisation, was the turning point in the game. Not only because of the result, but because of the effect it seemed to have on Gardner. He calmed down and Michigan looked like it had its best passing attack of the season for the next two quarters of the game.
Michigan Keeps Little Brown Jug With 35-13 Win Over Minnesota - The Daily Gopher
A Gopher three-and-out was followed by a long Michigan drive of 13 plays for 90 yards resulting in a touchdown before halftime after a questionable pass interference call on Martez Shabazz. But again, the Gopher defense made Michigan work for that touchdown and it would have been just a field goal if it weren't for those damn refs. 14-7 at halftime isn't such a bad thing, right?
Wrong, the second quarter was when Michigan regained their confidence and they continued to move the ball and score points in the third and fourth quarters. But even with their 389 total yards and 35 points, the Gophers had chances to score points of their own and blew a few key opportunities.
Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 10 - Big Ten Blog
Michigan QB Devin Gardner: After playing wide receiver for most of the season, Gardner moved back to his original position to replace the injured Denard Robinson at Minnesota. He had a rough first quarter that included an interception, but settled down nicely after keeping a play alive and firing a 45-yard touchdown strike to Drew Dileo. Michigan had failed to score a touchdown in nine quarters, but Gardner led consecutive touchdown drives of 91 and 90 yards in the first half. He finished the game 12-for-18 passing for 234 yards and two touchdowns, adding 21 rush yards and a touchdown in the 35-13 victory. Gardner showed that Michigan can win -- and score points -- without Robinson on the field. He also got a lot of help from receivers like Dileo, Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree.
Michigan Wolverines' future offense on display in victory over Minnesota - Wolverinenation
"It didn't surprise us," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of Devin Gardner's performance. "His ability, getting a lot of snaps, obviously -- he has been in the offense enough, he knows most of it. & I think he did a nice job of managing the team."
Devin Gardner threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns as he filled in for injured starter Denard Robinson. But Gardner's success on the field against the Golden Gophers only makes Michigan's quarterback situation blurrier -- this season and next. Hoke said if Denard Robinson's ulnar nerve injury is sufficiently healed, the senior will start and that there's no competition, which is understandable given Robinson's skill set and experience. But Gardner played one of the more comprehensive and solid games at quarterback that Michigan has seen this season.