Maybe it was the 49-yard field goal that Brady Hoke passed up, that would have put Michigan up 10. That wasn't a guaranteed field goal, though, but it would have given Matt Wile something other than a chip shot to gauge the weather conditions - something that would have come in handy a little later on a missed 39-yarder that barely squeaked by the left upright.
Maybe it was Maryland, which showed a tough defensive line that held De'Veon Smith (10 carries, 28 yards) in check and kept him inside the box. Their secondary was undersized, but it proved fast and physical, and forced Michigan to complete only two passes to someone other than the tight ends, a fullback, or Funchess, who was effectively a tight end with how much he stayed in the flat.
Maybe it was Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner, terrific athletes who could not play throw-and-catch against an average Big Ten team. Maybe it was the offensive line, which allowed multiple sacks and multiple tackles for loss, or maybe it was their offensive coordinator, who put the players in those positions. Maybe it was Brady Hoke pulling the strings, with Nussmeier a mere side puppet. Maybe it was the referees. Maybe it was the weather.
Maybe Michigan will compete next weekend with Ohio State. Elevating their level of play to do that, though, means identifying the problems and creating solutions, as any good football program does. Maybe they'll be able to do it. But I doubt it.
Hitting the Links Got Drunk on Eggnog
A lovely fact from here: "Michigan has lost 6+ games for the 5th time in 7 seasons post-Lloyd Carr. The Wolverines had 1 6-loss season in their previous 40 seasons prior to this stretch."
Before, it was only Gardner who looked like he was trying to do everything to win the game for his teammates. But a few of the mistakes today reeked of frustration and trying too hard. Jourdan Lewis ran into Brad Craddock, giving up a touchdown. A.J. Pearson committed a block in the back when he didn't need to do a thing, preventing a touchdown. Turn those two plays around, and Michigan would have won.
Also, Delano Hill was suspended yesterday, while Jake Butt was suspended for unknown reasons against Indiana. Devin Gardner got credit for a stutter step on a Maryland defensive back, but the burst he showed at the end (which was him being pushed out of bounds by the same defensive back) was unlike what he had been using at any other point in that run, or in that game. It just showed that somewhere, Gardner has another gear that he hasn't been reaching. Whatever the reasons are for these failures, the players' emotions are hindering their performance.
Gardner: 38 plays, 188 yards, 4.95 per play, 1 touchdown, 1 turnover. Johnson, Hayes, and Smith: 30 plays, 158 yards, 5.27 per play, 0 touchdowns, 0 turnovers. The coaches ran Smith a little too often, as both Johnson and Hayes averaged at least 6.0 ypc but combined for only two-thirds of the running backs' touches.
Also, Devin Funchess averaged 6 yards a catch, but his longest gain was for 7 yards. The coaches have tried to use Funchess as a stabilizer, someone who can move the chains and get 5-6 yards every time. The problem is that Gardner-to-Funchess is much less reliable than running the ball, and it takes away Funchess as an outside threat, which would become more dangerous if the Wolverines could establish the run game and force one-on-one coverage.
However, that's assuming a quarterback who could reliably get Funchess the ball in those match-ups, and Gardner has not shown the ability to reliably get it to Funchess on even short throws. Part of that falls on Funchess, and part falls on the coaches for not coaching. I'm not sure what they do week-to-week to get these players to focus on their weaknesses and improve, but things that emphasize reliability don't seem to be among them when it comes to easy throws and catches in the flat.
Devin Gardner incompleted five passes to Devin Funchess, which means that a more accurate statistic for Funchess's performance is this: 3.0 yards per target.
Chains of command go both ways, and this is something that often gets ignored or forgotten. Employees serve their bosses, and bosses serve their employees. It's a team effort to build a successful product, and the players who commit to this university are owed certain, inalienable things. Players have the right to go to a university that helps them succeed the most.
Unrelated: if Drake Johnson had gotten 22 carries with the production he showed today, he would have gotten 147 yards. If Michigan had decided to really ride their running backs, the yards were there to be gotten.
Devin Gardner's last home game. Not much of a legacy.