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What to Take from Michigan vs Iowa

Brady Hoke and his Michigan football team suffered their fourth loss of the last six games. What did we learn about the team?

Matthew Holst

The Bad

Michigan is exactly who we thought they were

What else can I say here? Devin Gardner is still a turnover-prone leader of the offense, coughing up the rock when the game was on the line. Al Borges is still maddeningly ignorant at times. Greg Mattison still doesn't have enough talent up front to produce an elite defense.

That last point is depressing. Michigan's starting inside linebackers, James Ross and Desmond Morgan, both went to the sideline with injuries, only to watch the Hawkeyes march up the field via simple run plays that the defense knew was coming. The defense isn't bad, but it's still not good enough to face an Iowa offensive line and shut down the run game. In 2011, many thought Greg Mattison would have the defensive front transformed into a run-stopping death machine by 2013, but that isn't the case yet.

And the run game. The freaking run game. Derrick Green rushed for 23 yards on 11 carries, while the once-exiled Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 12 yards on 6 carries. The offensive line looked terrible at times and decent at others, effectively earning them no praise for the week.

Someone put a hex on Devin Funchess' hands

Why can't you catch the ball, young man? Devin dropped a nice bomb thrown by Gardner, watched another ball hit the ground on a screen play after it went directly through his hands, and dropped at least one other pass that I can't bring up through my clouded and depressed memory. This only adds to the mounting pressure on his quarterback.

I just want to stop talking about the bad now, okay?

The Good

Jake Ryan and Frank Clark

These two came ready to play. Ryan came on an outside blitz and handed Michigan a touchdown on its first defensive play, and later broke on a pass like a safety to crush the intended receiver. He was moving well all day, which at least lets us know that he'll play well against Ohio State and whatever bowl opponent Michigan gets the pleasure of facing. Knowing he's healthy will give the Wolverines more options as far as fronts and pressures go.

And Frank Clark. The defensive end has come on strong in recent weeks by adding a violent spin move and pure aggressiveness. He pressured Rudock more than once, did a great job of containing some edge plays and continued to show us all why he's not ready to give up his spot to Taco Charlton in 2013. Sure, he still needs to work on containment of the passer, but at least he's making strides in pressuring them and containing running backs.

Blitz timing is improving

One thing that has been grinding my gears is the defense's tendency to show its blitz, watch the quarterbacks check into a play that can exploit that blitz, and still run that blitz post-snap. Greg Mattison has obviously addressed this in practice, because the linebackers and defensive backs have done a much better job of disguising their pre-snap looks, which in turn leads to the pressure getting home; James Ross' sack was a fine example of this. Mattison doesn't run a defensive system that makes many play changes after the line is set, but they've found a way to adapt and allow their blitzes to get home. Someone give that memo to Al Borges.

The Takeaway


That sums up my takeaway from Saturday, which was excruciatingly painful to watch in the second half. Everything is going wrong for Michigan this year, from the offensive line struggles to the inconsistencies on defense. This team still needs another class of great talent, and the classes above it still need time to develop. Add it all up and you're looking at a fan base who might be disappointed for another twelve months. But maybe, just maybe, my football mind has been numbed by the pain, and this team will turn it around next year. One can hope.