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Film Focus: Michigan vs. Miami (OH)

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There is not much to extract from a game against an inferior opponent like Miami. But, with some clamoring for Shane Morris to replace Devin Gardner, this week's "Film Focus" charts Gardner's performance against the RedHawks to see whether such a move would be justified.

Leon Halip

Other than a derp-tastic second quarter, Michigan out-classed hapless Miami, handing the RedHawks their 19th consecutive defeat. The Wolverines piled up 460 total yards -- 6.43 yards per non-sack carry and 9.20 yards per pass attempt -- while limiting Miami to 198 total yards and 3.96 yards per play. The RedHawks did so little offensively that, of their 12 legitimate drives, only one netted more than 30 yards, the outcome of which was a turnover on downs. Remove Michigan's three turnovers, which led to all of Miami's points, and the score would have been near 45-0, not 34-10. This would have kept Michigan backers content for at least a week and the torches and pitchforks in the shed.

But the derp-tastic second quarter did happen. In a span of just 4:50, Michigan committed three turnovers to allow Miami to knot the game at 10 points apiece midway through the quarter. Then, in the last minute before halftime, the Wolverines were penalized for an inexcusable delay of game following a timeout when they were about to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Miami 32-yard line. This pushed them back five yards and persuaded Brady Hoke to send out the punt team for some reason that is beyond me, ending Michigan's chance to extend its 17-10 lead before the break. Accordingly, the Wolverines were unable to build a comfortable lead against a poor Miami squad until late in the third quarter. So it is no shock that the torches and pitchforks are out and about this week.

Some of this heat has been directed at Devin Gardner. Many have opined that, after melting down in the second half at Notre Dame, Gardner struggled again versus the RedHawks. These critics are displeased with his decision-making -- something "Film Focus" touched on last week. They are concerned that his mechanics have devolved. And they are frustrated with his inconsistency. And this has caused them to clamor for backup Shane Morris to replace Gardner as Michigan's starting quarterback, a change Doug Nussmeier has no intention of making at the moment.

Any other week, I would review more important issues concerning Michigan football in this column, e.g., Michigan's shift to a 4-3 Over Cover 4 from a Nickel Press Cover 1, Ryan Glasgow's transformation into a quality Big Ten defensive tackle, or Derrick Green's improved vision. However, because these developments transpired against one of the worst teams in the nation in the RedHawks, there is no indication they will hold up against better competition.

So, this week, I will indulge in the Gardner-versus-Morris debate. I charted all 20 of Gardner's throws, as well as his scrambles and sacks, against Miami to determine whether those wanting Morris to take the reins are correct in their assertion that Gardner struggled last Saturday. Because this is "Film Focus," there will be screenshots accompanying this analysis courtesy of MGoVideo. On that note, let's begin:

13:35 1Q | 3rd & 4 | Miami 44 | Gardner 11-Yard Completion to Jones

Formation: Michigan sets up in a four-wide shotgun formation with bunched trips to the field. Da'Mario Jones is the lone receiver to the boundary. Miami has seven in the box with a defensive back pressed up against Michigan's bunched trips. On the other side, Miami's cornerback is seven yards off the line of scrimmage, providing Jones with bunches of space.

Play: When Gardner receives the snap, Miami falls back into a soft zone -- Cover 3 or Cover 4, but I am not sure which one -- as the boundary corner backpedals into a deep zone. Gardner recognizes this immediately and fires a bullet to Jones, who is running an out to the sideline, as soon as he finishes his three-step drop. The ball reaches Jones with no RedHawk within four yards of Jones to make a play on it.

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Gardner's decision to target Jones is the correct one, but his throw could have been more on point. It is a bit far to the outside when a ball between the numbers would suffice because Jones is wide open. Nonetheless, Jones, possessing a large catch radius, extends his arms to the outside and snags Gardner's pass with his fingertips for the completion and first down.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - B

13:13 1Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 33 | Gardner 16-Yard Pass to Chesson

Formation: Michigan is in the Ace formation with two wideouts, a tight end, and an H-back. A.J. Williams, as the tight end, is set next to right tackle Ben Braden, while Khalid Hill, as the H-back, motions to the right side of the formation behind Williams. Meanwhile, Miami is in a 4-3 Under with both corners seven yards off the line of scrimmage. As Hill motions, one of Miami's safeties creeps down, giving the RedHawks eight defenders in the box.

Play: At the snap, left guard Erik Magnuson pulls to suggest that Michigan has called a power to the strength of the formation for Derrick Green. Accordingly, all eight Miami defenders in the box bite towards the line of scrimmage. However, the actual call is a play-action rollout for Gardner with the pulling Magnuson providing additional protection. The fake is so successful that, not only does Gardner have all the time in the world to throw, he has two open targets from which to choose: (1) Jehu Chesson running a comeback route on the sideline to where Gardner is rolling; or (2) Amara Darboh sprinting free on a shallow drag route across the middle. Chesson is Gardner's first read, so that is whom Gardner chooses. Gardner throws a perfect ball for an easy pitch and catch for a 16-yard gain and first down.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

11:23 1Q | 3rd & 5 | Miami 12 | Gardner Incompletion

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Formation: Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun formation with twins to each side. Chesson and Darboh are the outside receivers, while Hill and Dennis Norfleet are in the slot. Miami has six in the box with four down linemen and is in a Cover 1 man press.

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Play: Gardner takes a three-step drop and has a clean pocket. His first read is to the near side of the field where Hill is running an out past the first-down marker. As Hill gets in and out of his cut, though, he gets little separation because the Miami defensive back (circled in yellow above) demonstrates great footwork and closes the gap instantly. It is a different story on the far side of the field, though, where Darboh releases inside and seals off the cornerback on his post and Norfleet is about to spring open on his crossing route behind the linebackers in a second or two. Once Gardner realizes that Hill is not open, he should go through his progression and connect with Darboh for a touchdown or Norfleet for a first down.

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However, Gardner never looks off Hill and forces a throw to his tight end, even though there is no pressure from Miami's pass rush that prevented him from making all his reads. The Miami defensive back undercuts the route and breaks up the pass. Accordingly, because Gardner did not come off his first read as he should have, the Wolverines must settle for a field goal on their opening drive rather than what should have been seven points.

Grade: Decision - Incorrect | Throw - B

9:32 1Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 37 | Gardner 6-Yard Scramble

Formation: Michigan is in an offset I-formation with its strength to the boundary, where Jake Butt is aligned as a tight end and Joe Kerridge is set as the fullback. However, the Wolverines have twin receivers in Darboh and Chesson flipped to the field. Miami appears to be in its nickel package with its field corner and nickelback giving Darboh and Chesson a seven-yard cushion.

Play: Gardner receives the snap and fakes the handoff to Green. It is play-action, and it takes some time to develop. Gardner's first read is Butt, who releases and runs a corner route to the boundary. However, Miami's boundary corner and safety bracket Butt, closing any potential throwing window. It seems Gardner is about to make his second read, but we will never know because Braden is beaten clean on a speed rush. Gardner feels the pressure and ducks away as a running lane opens to his right. He then brings the ball down and takes off toward the far sideline, picking up six yards in the process. Before crossing the line of scrimmage, Gardner may have had Darboh open on a comeback, but, at that point, Gardner had already tucked the ball away and was just trying to avoid a negative play.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - N/A

8:23 1Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 23 | Gardner 4-Yard Pass to Chesson

Formation:  Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with trips to the field. However, Butt is the wideout to the boundary, Kerridge is the flanker to the field, and Darboh and Chesson are the two inside receivers to the field. Defensively, Miami is in its nickel package and shows a soft zone with only two defensive backs aligned to the field.

Play: Gardner recognizes Miami's soft coverage and capitalizes instantly. As soon as he takes the snap, he looks to the far sideline where Chesson is running a quick out underneath Miami's soft zone coverage. Gardner takes only one step back before he unloads to the far sideline. Gardner's throw reaches Chesson before Miami's nickelback can close the gap. However, the throw is a bit to the inside, which causes Chesson to slow down and turn back into the center of the field to make the reception. Although a perfect throw to the outside may have led to only one or two yards after the catch, the throw to the inside eliminated any possibility of that occurring.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - B

7:06 1Q | 3rd & 4 | Miami 17 | Gardner 17-Yard TD Pass to Darboh

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Formation: Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with trips to the field. Norfleet is the flanker to the field with Chesson stacked behind Butt, while Darboh is the lone receiver to the boundary. Miami is in its nickel package and, with a linebacker and safety at the line of scrimmage, is tipping blitz. With Miami's safety tipping blitz from the boundary, the boundary corner is on an island in press coverage against Darboh.

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Play: Gardner calls for the snap, and Miami indeed brings the house. With six rushers and Justice Hayes leaking into the flat, Miami is in Cover Zero and has one blitzer with an unabated path to Gardner. This is Miami's safety from the boundary, which means that, if Darboh beats the boundary corner's press and releases to the inside on his quick slant, he has a prime opportunity to celebrate in the end zone. Gardner reads this perfectly and immediately stares down Darboh, waiting for Darboh to win the battle inside.

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Darboh releases inside on the quick slant easily thanks to his great hands and the boundary corner's terrible technique. Gardner sees this and, with Miami's blitzing safety bearing down on him, steps into the throw and delivers an absolute strike right between Darboh's numbers. Gardner's pass could not be any better. The result:

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Touchdown.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A+

3:26 1Q | 3rd & 9 | 50 | Gardner Incompletion

Formation: Michigan is in a three-wide shotgun formation with twins to the field (Darboh and Chesson), Hill at tight end to the field, and Jones as the lone receiver to the boundary. I think Miami is in a 3-3-5 Nickel package, but it is difficult to discern what personnel the RedHawks have on the field. Also, the boundary corner is in press coverage against Jones.

Play: Gardner handles the snap, drops back, and begins to peek to the boundary where Jones is one on one with the corner. However, the boundary corner does an excellent job of jamming Jones at the line of scrimmage and nudging Jones off his route towards the sideline. At this point, Gardner should begin to come off Jones and make his secondary read, but Miami has sent two linebackers on a blitz, one of which has burst through the Michigan offensive line unblocked. This linebacker flushes Gardner to his right before Gardner has a chance to look at his secondary read. As Gardner rolls to his right with three RedHawks closing in on him, he sees that Jones has become open past the sticks while coming back to the football. Gardner has to make a quick decision: (1) throw it out of bounds on third down and live to fight another day; or (2) try to connect with Jones and earn the first down. Gardner opts for the latter, which, although riskier, I believe is the right move.

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However, Gardner waits a split-second too long to make the throw and is hit just as he releases the football. This causes Gardner's throw to be too far inside as Jones runs out of space near the sideline. In fact, if Jones does not reach back and attempt to snag the pass, the football very likely would have been intercepted by the Miami boundary corner. Instead, it is only an incomplete pass due to a poor throw by Gardner, and Michigan must punt.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - D

1:26 1Q | 1st & 10 | U-M 28 | Gardner 18-Yard Pass to Darboh

Formation: Michigan is in a power Ace formation with two wideouts (Darboh and Freddy Canteen) and two tight ends (Williams and Hill). Miami is in its nickel package with its nickelback lined up just outside the defensive end at the line of scrimmage.

Play: Gardner takes the snap and acts as if he is about to hand the football to De'Veon Smith on a stretch to the field. Miami's defense crashes hard as both linebackers and the backside safety all sprint towards the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Except Gardner does not hand it off to Smith and rolls out to the right on the play-action with hours of time. He then finds an open Darboh, who has run a crisp comeback route near the sideline, and throws him a line drive for an easy catch three yards past the first-down marker. Darboh then gains an additional five yards afterwards.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

15:00 2Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 42 | Gardner Incompletion

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Formation: Michigan is in an Ace formation with two receivers (Darboh and Canteen), a tight end (Williams), and an H-back (Butt). Prior to the snap, Canteen motions from the field and joins Darboh to the boundary, while both Williams and Butt remain to the field. Canteen's motion reveals that Miami, which is in its nickel package, will be in zone coverage on this play.

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Play: Gardner takes the snap and fakes the handoff to Smith. It is play-action, and, given how long the routes being run by the Michigan receivers are, it is not a quick-hitter. Darboh, who is Gardner's first read, streaks down the sideline on a go route, but, at the moment, the Miami corner is with him step for step. Both Canteen and Butt run intermediate crossing routes, while Smith leaks out of the backfield into boundary flat. Even though Miami is in a zone, its safety is covering Canteen in man and trailing him to the near side of the field. In doing so, a huge hole in Miami's coverage opens, and Butt just happens to be running right into it. Gardner escapes the pressure he feels from his blind side, steps up into the pocket, and throws.

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As one can see by the circle above, Butt is so, so open. If Gardner targets Butt, the result of the play likely is a simple toss and catch for at least 25 yards, setting up Michigan in the red zone. But, as one can tell from this screen shot, Gardner does not throw it to Butt, even though he is looking towards that side of the field. Instead, Gardner heaves a bomb for a streaking Darboh, who has maybe a step on his defender.

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Darboh does beat his defender over the top, albeit not by much, but it does not matter because Gardner overthrows him by about three yards in the back of the end zone. Gardner took his shot downfield and missed when he should have noticed Butt wide open underneath running across his line of sight for what would have been a huge chunk of yards. Although a perfect throw to Darboh here results in a touchdown, the better decision would have been to check down to Butt for an easier throw. And, as one can see, Gardner's pass to Darboh was not near perfect.

Grade: Decision - Incorrect | Throw - C

14:11 2Q | 3rd & 11 | Miami 43 | Gardner 22-Yard Pass to Darboh

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Formation: Michigan is in a three-wide shotgun deep set with trips to the field and Williams as a tight end to the boundary. Miami is in what appears to a dime package and will be in a soft zone to prevent the Wolverines from picking up the long third-down conversion.

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Play: Gardner takes the snap and fakes the handoff to Smith, although, on third-and-11, no one on Miami is fooled. As the RedHawks drop eight back into coverage, Gardner rolls to his left with right guard Kyle Kalis pulling in front Gardner to give him protection outside the pocket. Michigan's plan is to overload the zone to the field and hope one of its receivers can find a hole in which to sit. Once Gardner finishes rolling to his left, he sets his feet and looks directly upfield for Chesson, who is out of frame and running a seam route, I believe. However, Chesson is covered by Miami's deep zone, and Gardner is running out of time as a defensive lineman is about to get in his face.

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But, at the last possible second, rather than bailing and scrambling, Gardner looks at his secondary read, which is Darboh, who is coming back on the far sideline to sit between the two levels of Miami's zone. Gardner sees this and steps into his throw as he is about to be crushed by the RedHawks' defensive lineman.

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Gardner throws a perfect pass over Miami's linebackers and with enough velocity that the football reaches Darboh before any RedHawk is within five yards of him. Darboh makes the catch and begins to take off down the sideline for extra yards when he is tackled from behind and fumbles the football just before his knee makes contact with the turf. It is a tough turnover for the Wolverines just outside the red zone, but it does not take away from the fact that this was an incredible throw by Gardner.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A+

11:26 2Q | 2nd & 9 | U-M 22 | Gardner Interception

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Formation: Michigan is a four-wide shotgun set with trips to the field (Kerridge is the flanker; Chesson and Darboh are in the slot). Miami is in its regular nickel package. All three RedHawks defensive backs to the field are no fewer than eight yards off the line of scrimmage, while the boundary corner is in press coverage on Butt.

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Play: Gardner reads Miami's soft zone coverage and knows that all four of his receivers are running quick slants underneath. Gardner takes one step back and looks immediately at Chesson -- the middle receiver to the field. However, what Gardner fails to read is Miami's safety creeping towards where Chesson is running his slant, while the field corner is somewhat bailing into a deeper zone on the far sideline. The correct decision here would be to hit Kerridge on the quick slant, whereas a throw to Chesson would lead him right into traffic. However, Gardner never acknowledges Kerridge's route because the odds are slim Kerridge is even a real target on this play. This is more of a personnel issue than anything -- Michigan should have a wide receiver as the flanker, not a fullback -- but, nonetheless, if Kerridge is there, Gardner cannot ignore that read.

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Gardner targets Chesson, and, as the football sails past the line of scrimmage, a Miami defensive lineman puts his hand in the air and gets a small piece of the football.

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The defensive lineman gets just enough of it with his fingertips to alter its trajectory. Chesson cannot quite get his hands on the pass and, just as the football zooms by, he is absolutely blasted in the ribs by the safety. And, unfortunately for Michigan, the field corner, who had been dropping into a deeper zone, is in perfect position to intercept Gardner's pass behind the play. It is difficult to blame Gardner for this pick because his pass was tipped at the line -- that it was tipped does mean it was not the best throw, though. But Gardner should not have thrown this ball to Chesson in the first place given the traffic in the middle of the field.

Grade: Decision - Incorrect | Throw - B

7:19 2Q | 1st & 10 | U-M 34 | Gardner 26-Yard Pass to Darboh

Formation: Michigan is in an Ace formation with twins to the field (Canteen and Darboh), Hill as the H-back, and Williams as the tight end. Defensively, Miami is in its nickel package and will drop into another soft zone.

Play: Gardner fakes the handoff to Green, so Michigan has called a play-action pass. Miami rushes only four defenders and Michigan's offensive line prevents any pressure from getting to Gardner. Gardner has time to deliver a strike to Darboh, who finds a gap in the zone between two Miami defensive backs 18 yards downfield on his crossing route. Gardner's throw is a smidgen behind his intended receiver but not enough to slow Darboh down as he scampers for another eight yards after the reception.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

6:47 2Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 40 | Gardner Sacked for -7 Yards

Formation: Michigan is in the I-formation with Williams lined up as a tight end to the field. Miami is in its nickel package, with both corners pressing Michigan's wideouts and the nickelback lined up over Williams.

Play: Once again, out of an under-center formation, Michigan runs play-action. The two wideouts are running long routes, Williams cuts into a quick dig, and Green and Kerridge leak out of the backfield. Gardner appears to be looking for either Darboh or Williams to spring open on the near side, but, before either has an opportunity to do so, the right side of Michigan's offensive line completely collapses. The offensive line tries to recover and shove three RedHawks defensive linemen upfield past Gardner, but Braden's man surges inside and gets right in Gardner's face, mauling him for a sack. Gardner did have Kerridge wide open in the flat to the far side of the field, but, with that much pressure in his face so quickly, he never had a chance to make what likely would have been a tertiary read. This is on the offensive line, not Gardner.

Grade: Decision - N/A | Throw - N/A

1:37 2Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 41 | Gardner Incompletion

Formation: Michigan is in a a shotgun deep formation with two wide receivers and two tight ends. Miami is in its nickel package and, with its nickelback tucked inside, appears to be in man coverage.

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Play: Gardner fakes the handoff and drops back to pass, while Miami rushes only four. For the first time all game, Gardner goes through all of his progressions. He initially looks to the boundary at Darboh, but Darboh is blanketed by the corner as he sprints up the sideline.

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Gardner then looks to the middle of the field where Hill is running an intermediate crossing route, but, like Darboh, Hill also is unable to get open.

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So Gardner goes to his tertiary read, which is Canteen on an out route to the near side of the field. Canteen is out of frame, so it is unclear how much separation he gets on his defender, if any. Nonetheless, Gardner tries to rocket a long pass from the far hashmark to the near sideline. As Canteen pops into frame, we see that there is little cushion between he and his defender and that Gardner's pass is too far to the outside for either to make a play on the football. Because Canteen was not in the picture when Gardner released the football, it is tough to discern whether this was the right decision, but I am going to give Gardner credit for going through his reads rather than locking in on his initial option. Nonetheless, his throw, while a difficult one, was way off target.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - C

1:17 2Q | 3rd & 7 | Miami 38 | Gardner 6-Yard Pass to Canteen

Formation: Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with stacked twins to each side of the formation. Miami is in what appears to be its 3-3-5 Nickel.

Play: At the snap, Miami blitzes all of its linebackers, sending six rushers at Gardner. Michigan rolls Gardner to his right, which helps alleviate the pressure a bit. But Gardner knows he does not have much time, so he connects with his first target, Canteen, who is running a quick out towards the near sideline. However, as he catches the football, Canteen drops to his knees just shy of the first-down marker. Upon further review, this seems to be a freshman mistake by Canteen, not recognizing where the sticks are, rather than a poor throw by Gardner that forced Canteen to fall to the ground to make the catch. Canteen should have been able to stay upright to make the catch and cut upfield an additional yard to record the first down. Instead, it is a fourth-and-one for Michigan, which turns into a debacle.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - B

11:44 3Q | 3rd & 2 | U-M 22 | Gardner 5-Yard Pass to Darboh

Formation: Michigan is in an Ace Formation with Williams at tight end and Chesson and Darboh bunched in as the two H-backs. This is a heavy formation that suggests that Michigan will try to run for this first down. Miami responds by putting nine in the box, leaving one deep safety back and pressing Michigan's lone wideout to the field.

Play: Gardner runs play-action and rolls to his right. This is a waggle because Darboh, who initially blocks Miami's defensive end, then releases into the flat, leaving the defensive end with a direct path at Gardner. Gardner waits a split-second before tossing a soft pass over the defensive end to Darboh in the flat. The pass is in on point, and, after Darboh pulls out a few dance movies at the line of scrimmage, he cuts inside and pushes past the sticks for a first down.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

11:07 3Q | 1st & 10 | U-M 27 | Gardner Incompletion

Formation: Michigan is in a three-wide Ace formation with twins to the boundary (Darboh as the flanker and Norfleet in the slot). Miami is in its nickel package with one of its linebackers lined up next to the defensive end to the boundary.

Play: Gardner runs a play-action fake to Green as Miami brings five rushers, sending the boundary linebacker on a blitz. As Gardner completes his fake and sets his feet in the pocket, it looks like he is peeking at either Darboh or Norfleet to the near side of the field, but it is very difficult to tell. However, Gardner has little time to continue to look at those two options because left tackle Mason Cole has been beaten clean. Gardner is about to be hit from the blind side when he notices Chesson crossing across the middle of the field with only one defender on him. Although this defender has tight coverage, Chesson has him somewhat sealed. So, rather than take a sack, Gardner fires the football to Chesson as he is blind-sided by the rusher.

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Given the circumstances, Gardner cannot have thrown a better football as it is targeted for Chesson's facemask, where only Chesson can make a play on it. However, with the corner draped on him, Chesson makes an awkward leap for the pass and lets the ball slip through his hands and off his helmet for an incompletion. This is not the easiest catch to make, but this was a drop by Chesson, not a poor throw by Gardner.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A+

7:33 3Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 47 | Gardner 0-Yard Pass to Darboh

Formation: Michigan is in a three-wide shotgun set with trips to the field. Miami is in its nickel package and provides a soft cushion on the Wolverines' three wideouts.

Play: On the snap, Gardner fakes the sweep to the outside and throws a flanker screen to Darboh. The throw is accurate, and, with some good blocks, Darboh can pick up a decent gain. But the blocks are far from satisfactory. Chesson is shoved backwards on his block by the field corner, while Norfleet runs to block the safety in a deep zone rather than the nearby nickelback. Accordingly, the RedHawks swarm Darboh before he can cross the line of scrimmage. There is nothing more Gardner can do here.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

6:18 3Q | 3rd & 7 | Miami 44 | Gardner Incompletion

Formation: Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with twin receivers to both sides. Miami is in its 3-3-5 Nickel, with one of the linebackers lined up in a two-point stance as a defensive end.

Play: Once the ball is snapped, Miami's corner blitzes from the boundary without tipping it. Perfect execution because none of Michigan's six blockers are aware he is coming. Gardner's first read is to the field, so he also has no clue that an unblocked RedHawk is jetting right for him. Initially, Gardner pumps to Darboh, who is running a quick out at the sticks, but he recognizes that Miami's safety has Darboh covered over the top. As Gardner brings the ball back down, he then finally sees that Miami's blitzing corner is two feet away and closing fast. Somehow, Gardner sheds the corner and rolls out of the pocket to the right. Gardner continues to look downfield as another RedHawk chases him down. He sees Darboh running somewhat open back across the field and tries to throw a pass behind his body, which rarely is ever a good idea. The pass is late and low. Darboh is unable to scoop it, and it falls for an incompletion. Gardner did an unbelievable job to avoid the sack and keep the play alive, but he also probably should have just thrown the ball out of bounds rather than try to force a throw that tends to be intercepted often to Darboh. The result of this play is not Gardner's fault, but he still did not make the best decision at the end. I am going to chart this as the correct decision because Gardner extended the play but ding the throw. In the future, he needs to be more willing to chuck it away.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - C

4:58 3Q | 1st & 10 | U-M 37 | Gardner 22-Yard Pass to Butt

Formation: Michigan is in an Ace formation with twins to the boundary, Williams at tight end, and Butt as the H-back. Miami is in its nickel package and has its boundary corner press Darboh on the outside..

Play: Shocker: Michigan runs a play-action pass from an under-center formation. And guess what? Remember the play earlier when Gardner missed a wide-open Butt on the post to throw a bomb to Darboh? This is the exact same play out of the exact same formation. This time, though, Gardner does not stare down Darboh the whole way and looks to his secondary read: Butt. Once again, Butt is open, albeit not nearly as open as before because this time he has Miami's nickelback trailing him in man coverage. If Gardner's throw is on the money, Butt should pick up a 20-yard gain, maybe more, without breaking a sweat.

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However, despite feeling no pressure, Gardner decides to throw a jump pass rather than step into his throw. Why? I have no clue. This causes Gardner's pass to be very inaccurate and way behind Butt. In fact, it is far enough behind Butt that Miami's nickelback is in prime position to intercept the football.

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Yet Butt makes a fantastic play by coming back to the ball and wrestling it away from the Miami nickelback before picking up a 22-yard gain. Plain and simple: even though Gardner made the right read this time, he made a terrible throw because he completely abandoned his mechanics. He was just lucky that Butt was there to bail him out.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - F

3:52 3Q | 1st & 10 | Miami 29 | Gardner 29-Yard TD Pass to Butt

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Formation: Michigan is in a four-wide shotgun set with twins to both sides. To the boundary, Darboh is the flanker and Butt is in the slot. Miami is in its nickel package and, with its alignment, has only two defenders to the boundary with Darboh and Butt.

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Play: This is by far my favorite Michigan offensive play of the game. The Wolverines begin to set up a flanker screen to Darboh on the boundary. Butt runs up and blocks the the boundary corner, so the safety, who sees Gardner eyeing Darboh, thinks this will be a screen and crashes down to stop it for a loss or no gain.

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However, this is a fake flanker screen, one that Michigan has been setting up for weeks. As the safety crashes down, Butt disengages from his block and releases downfield into acres of space within 10 yards of him. All Gardner needs to do is drop the ball into his Butt's hands, and it is an easy touchdown for the Wolverines. Gardner's pass hits Butt right on the fingertips, and Butt is able to haul it in and jog into the end zone for a much-needed seven points for Michigan.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - B

12:21 4Q | 2nd & 9 | Miami 35 | Gardner 8-Yard Pass to Butt

Formation: Michigan is in a three-wide Ace formation with twins to the field. Butt, as the H-back, motions from the boundary to the field just before the snap. Miami is in its nickel package and has one of its safeties near the line of scrimmage as a blitzer.

Play: Gardner fakes the zone stretch to the boundary for Green and rolls to this right. Like the short completion on third down to Darboh earlier, this is a waggle. Except, this time, the blocker disengaging from his block to release into the flat is Butt. Gardner waits a split-second to allow Butt to get upfield before lobbing a jump pass over the defensive end, which is acceptable on this type of route. Butt brings in the easy toss and works his way upfield for an eight-yard gain. This was Gardner's last throw of the game as Morris entered on the next series.

Grade: Decision - Correct | Throw - A

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So what is the verdict? Let's look at the chart:

Devin Gardner's Passing Chart vs. Miami (OH)
Correct Decision Incorrect Decision A+ A B C D F
18 3 3 6 6 3 1 1

This is a pretty great chart for Gardner. Yes, quality-of-opponent caveats apply here, but this is not the chart of a redshirt senior quarterback that should be benched in favor of a true sophomore with little experience.

One of the biggest critiques of Gardner's game is his inability to go through his progressions if his first read is not open. This happened only three times on 20 pass attempts -- one of the correct decisions was a scramble -- against Miami. Those were the the incompletion to Hill on third down in the first quarter, the bomb to Darboh when Butt was wide open underneath for a 20-plus-yard gain, and the interception. Every other throw Gardner made was the correct read. To be fair, most of these reads were correct because Gardner's first target was open and he did not need to go through his progressions. But there were a few times when Gardner did go through his reads if his first option was covered and a few other times that Gardner was about to do so before pressure from the RedHawks' pass rush flushed him out of the pocket. Gardner's vision can be baffling at times, but he was more than decent most of the day.

With regards to Gardner's mechanics and accuracy, 15 of his 20 passes were graded as a "B" or better, including three "A+" throws. This means that 75% of Gardner's pass attempts were on point or accurate, even if it did not result in a completion. Even the interception was graded as a "B" pass because it was a well-thrown ball that just happened to be slightly grazed by the defensive lineman's fingertips. This is an excellent rate, and the fact that many of Gardner's throws were short passes thrown to open receivers running screens, quick outs, and comebacks on play-action should not discount it.

However, Gardner still has a few hiccups with his mechanics from time to time, which cause the inconsistent play that frustrates much of the Michigan faithful. While "C" passes are inaccurate passes that are not harmful, it is the "D" and "F" passes that he must eradicate, although it seems unlikely at this point in his career. There are times when Gardner tries to make plays out of nothing when he should just play it safe and fight another day. The best examples of this in the Miami contest were the two throws he threw behind his body as he rolled to his right. By throwing back into traffic or waiting too long to do so, Gardner is asking to be intercepted. Sometimes, there is a play to be made. But, most of the time, he needs to just throw it away.

The other technical flaw Gardner must improve is his footwork. In the past, there have been too many times when he has thrown off his back foot when pressure is in his face. This is somewhat understandable, but a problem nonetheless. However, the one thing Gardner has seemed to develop this season is a jump pass. There are times when a jump pass is necessary like when he needs to loft a pass over a defensive end into the flat on a waggle. But then there are times when he throws a jump pass in the middle of a clean pocket for no reason. This causes Gardner to toss a soft pass that is prone to being inaccurate or undercut. Sure, this can work if the receiver is wide open, but, if there is a defensive back playing tight coverage, Gardner is asking to be intercepted, which almost happened on Butt's first reception in the third quarter. Gardner really needs to shore this up in the coming weeks.

But, overall, Gardner had a very good performance. Yes, he made a few mistakes, but I think the number of mistakes he made has been exaggerated by fans that still have not forgotten his second-half collapse against Notre Dame and are frustrated Michigan did not pull away against a bad Miami team until late in the third quarter. Yet the reasons for Michigan's inability to extend its lead can be attributed to Darboh's fumble just outside the red zone, the special-teams miscue on the kickoff return, and the offensive line's inability to pick up some of Miami's third-down blitzes that forced Gardner out of the pocket. Yes, Gardner's interception contributed to the RedHawks' comeback, but the pick was not the result of a poor throw. It was an unfortunate, unlucky ricochet.

There still will be those that call for Gardner to be replaced and for Morris to be the starter. But, at this point in time, in my opinion, Gardner still is Michigan's best quarterback and gives the Wolverines the best chance to win each week.