No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama: Postgame Grades for Wolverines' Loss
After the hype and confidence early on, the Michigan Wolverines fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide 41-14 on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.
It was a game in which Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson was a non-factor. He was kept inside the pocket all night and was largely unable to use his athleticism to its fullest extent.
All in all, Michigan has lost its first game of the season, and coach Brady Hoke and his staff will go back to the drawing board and aim to bounce back from this loss.
With that said, let's take a look at Michigan's postgame grades for their season opener.
Despite running for a touchdown and throwing for another, Denard Robinson was a non-factor in this game.
The Crimson Tide defense took away his scrambling and running ability, confining him to the pocket for most of the game. Robinson was exposed as a passer, and was largely unable to handle the different looks Alabama threw at him all game long.
Robinson also threw a couple of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
With the suspension of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith got the call at running back. Against the stout Bama defense, Smith only gained 32 yards on 13 carries and Rawls put up just nine yards on six carries.
The backs failed to have any luck on the ground, making the Wolverines a one-dimensional team and forcing them to throw the football more than they likely hoped to.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
When Robinson could get the ball out of the pocket and in the direction of his receivers, they caught most of his balls. Jeremy Gallon led the group with 107 receiving yards, and the lone touchdown went to Devin Gardner—his lone reception—on a 44-yard bomb.
The receivers, however, were very quiet as they made very few plays downfield, thanks in large part to Robinson's inability to get outside of the pocket as a result of Alabama's pass rush and containment schemes.
The Michigan offensive line was completely dominated by Alabama's front seven all night, and they were not able to create any holes for quarterback Robinson or any of the Wolverines running backs.
Pass protection was also a big issue, as they failed to keep the pressure off of Robinson. He never got comfortable in a pocket that was constantly collapsing.
The Michigan defensive line was a non-factor, as the Crimson Tide rushed for 231 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines' front seven failed to put much pressure at all on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who despite only completing half of his passes, still managed to throw two touchdowns.
As was the case for the defensive line, the Wolverines' linebackers fared no better against the Alabama running game or passing attack. They did not cut off running lanes, and they were not strong at the point of attack. They were simply pushed around by Alabama for a large portion of the night.
The Michigan secondary—aside from the two touchdowns they allowed—did not allow McCarron to throw all over them and limited the Crimson Tide quarterback to 199 passing yards.
The secondary did its job by limiting Alabama through the air, but had trouble against the run once Alabama's running backs broke into the second level.
Special teams weren't a huge part of the game, and they were not what lost the game for the Wolverines.
Of course, Michigan punter Will Hagerup saw the field plenty, as did kick returner Dennis Norfleet.
But the Wolverines did not allow a long punt return, nor were there any major miscues or bad snaps.
Special teams were honestly the cleanest part of Michigan's night in Texas.
Overall, Brady Hoke and the Wolverines staff were unable to rise to the occasion and find a way past this Alabama defense. The Tide shut down Michigan's athletic quarterback along with their running game, and they shut off any attempts at trying to move the ball through the air.
The Michigan staff did not do anything to counter Alabama's ability to run the ball, giving up over 200 yards on the ground. They answered the questions through the air, holding the Crimson Tide to under 200 yards, but when it's all said and done, Saban was clearly the superior coach in Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.