Pace tends to skew things. Michigan was up just 14-7 at halftime and some weren't really happy. Where was the dominating win after the bye week that fans had clamored for? Where was the dominating, re-tooled offensive line? Where was Devin Gardner doing spectacular things like we remembered?
It was mostly there if you read between the lines. Minnesota's offense — a glacially paced running attack — was all too happy to eat clock and limit possessions on both sides, and Michigan was fine with this as well. Michigan had just eight offensive possessions and it scored on five of those. Two of those drives went 75 yards and another went 69. Michigan had just two three-and-outs all game.
It wasn't a high-flying offensive circus, but Michigan continually found ways to move the ball down the field. The run game, behind a new face on the offensive line in Chris Bryant, found a little more success running power. Fitz Toussaint had 17 carries for 78 yards and a two touchdowns for an average of 4.6 yards/carry — not a bad number. Derrick Green looked good early but struggled in the second half to a final line of 10 for 23 yards and a touchdown.
The passing game was simply effective. Devin Gardner avoided a turnover for the first game as a starter and finished with 13/17 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown. Sure, there were a few poorly placed throws that took receivers out of position for gains after the catch, but Gardner also had some very authoritative throws that were right on the money. He looked calmer and his mechanics seemed improved after a week off. It was the kind of game fans needed to see.
The biggest offensive revelation was Devin Funchess, who shifted outside to wide receiver for the game and was downright uncoverable. He finished the game with seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown and was Michigan's most explosive offensive player all day long.
Defensively things weren't great, but overall Michigan made a lot of stops after ceding yards to a Minnesota rushing attack that was largely content to pound out yards in heavy formations. Minnesota also had eight drives (not counting the drive at the end of the half). Two ended in turnovers, two drives were held to field goals, and only one went for a touchdown. While Michigan didn't play lights out (forcing only one three-and-out isn't great), it held Minnesota to 3.3 yards per rush and less than seven yards per pass. Once Michigan took the lead Minnesota wasn't able to seriously challenge it.
This didn't feel like a dominanting performance. The announcers continually gave Michigan a hard time over its issues (in some cases, rightly so) and there were still breakdowns on both sides of the ball. However, after two lackluster performances against bad teams that kept the game interesting until late, this was just the medicine Michigan needed.
Next week the Wolverines get a Penn State team that was just exposed vs. Indiana. If the Wolverines can build on this game, that too could be a win.
It wasn't always pretty, but it was as close to the plan for this young team as you can get. Michigan isn't where it wants to be this season, but for the first time in a month it looks like the Wolverines are on track.