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Postgame Grades from the Wolverines' Win over the Falcons

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIOctober 25, 2016

Postgame Grades from the Wolverines' Win over the Falcons

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    Give credit where credit is due: The Air Force Falcons made Saturday's game against the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines much closer than most anticipated.

    Predicting a lopsided score in Michigan's (1-1) favor was logical. I wrote that Michigan would win 38-17, but instead it hung on for a 31-25 victory over the visiting Falcons (1-1) at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

    Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson turned in a "Shoelace-esque" performance, rushing and throwing for over 200 yards for just the third time in his star-studded collegiate career.

    Freshman tight end Devin Funchess became the second Wolverines "receiver" to emerge as a target for Robinson, hauling in a 30-yard touchdown in the first half and making a juggling 19-yard catch in the second half.

    Falcons running back Cody Getz rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns. His pinball-like tactics made it difficult for Wolverines defenders to bring him down and hold him at bay for most of the game.

    How did the rest of the Wolverines perform in their scare against the Falcons?

    Find out as we break down players by position, coaching decisions and special teams in the post-game grades of Saturday's duel.

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Wolverines QB Denard Robinson Gets an "A"

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    Denard Robinson probably felt like he had to let loose Saturday against Air Force.

    After all, his showing Sept. 1 against Alabama wasn't impressive. In essence, this Saturday's contest against the Air Force Falcons may have been bigger for Robinson on a personal level that it was for overall for the Wolverines.

    The college football world was waiting for "Shoelace" to show off his skills, and he did that in Michigan's 31-25 win over the Falcons. Robinson most definitely earned a grade of "A" on Saturday.

    The speedy senior threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 218 yards and two scores, eclipsing the 200/200-yard mark for the third time during his illustrious collegiate career.

    Robinson put the Wolverines on the board with a 79-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter and added a 58-yard touchdown romp in the third quarter for good measure.

    If Saturday's game was "gut-check time" for Robinson, he passed that test with flying colors.

Wolverines Running Backs Get an "F"

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    Does Denard Robinson count as a running back?!

    Well, if not, the Michigan Wolverines weren't as solid overall running the ball as they probably would have liked.

    But as mentioned in the previous slide, there wasn't much need for anyone but Robinson's services against Air Force.

    If not for Robinson, Michigan would have totaled -4 rushing yards on the day. Newly-reinstated running back Fitz Toussaint gained seven yards on eight touches and had a five-yard run to pad his average of 0.9 yards per carry.

    The rest of the backs combined for -11 yards, an average of -3.7 yards per tote.

    Unfair to grade the Wolverines running back with an "F?"

    Not really.

    Part of the reason why Robinson ran the ball so often was because no one could do it. He literally took the game into his own hands.

Wolverines WRs Get a "B"

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    There wasn't really a particular Wolverines receiver that stood out Saturday against the Falcons, but the group earned an overall grade of "B."

    Again, not to sound like a broken record, but quarterback Denard Robinson did most of the work.

    However, newly-converted receiver, former quarterback Devin Gardner, had a respectable day with five catches, 63 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a guy who just moved to wideout this season.

    Jeremy Jackson had two catches and 17 yards.

    Jerald Robinson had a 10-yard catch, while Jeremy Gallon added a seven-yard grab.

    For the most part, the Wolverines receivers did an admirable job getting open and putting themselves into position to make catches. That wasn't the case Sept. 1 against Alabama.

    It's hard to gauge just how well the receivers played due to Robinson's showing, but there weren't many drops, and Gardner, especially, fought his way to yards after contact.

    The top pass catcher of the day wasn't, by definition, a wide receiver.

Wolverines Tight End Devin Funchess Gets an "A"

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    Freshman Devin Funchess had a spectacular day receiving.

    He caught a 30-yard touchdown pass in the first half and added a 19-yard, juggling grab along the right sideline in the second half -- and for his efforts, he gets an "A."

    Staring in place of the injured Brandon Moore (stretched MCL), Funchess integrated into the offense without a hitch. He did a great job getting open, using his 6'5", 229-pound frame to his advantage against a much smaller Falcons defense en route to tallying 106 yards receiving on just four catches.

Wolverines O-Line Gets an "A-"

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    If the offensive line wasn't on its A-game, then it wouldn't have earned a grade of "A-" on Saturday.

    In order for Denard Robinson to work his magic, the big guys up front have to make their presence known.

    And they did.

    Taylor Lewan, Elliott Mealer, and Ricky Barnum each gave Robinson enough time to either scramble out of the pocket, sit in the pocket and throw or take off for a big gain.

    "Shoelace" owes a lot of his success to the men in the trenches. While Michigan wasn't overly impressive in its 31-25 win over the Falcons, it did control the line of scrimmage while on offense.

    The offensive line kept Robinson on his feet and kept him from tasting the grass.

    The Wolverines were 5-of-11 on third-down conversions, further proof of a job well done Saturday.

Wolverines D-Line Gets a "D"

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    The Wolverines defense, as a whole, was less-than stellar Saturday.

    And that's putting it mildly, perhaps too nicely.

    The word "awful" is a more appropriate adjective to describe the way the defense played. Not solely the defensive line's fault, Air Force moved the ball at will for most of the day.

    The Wolverines defensive line gets a "D" for disappointing.

    Falcons running back Cody Getz, a 5'7", 175-pounder, squirmed his way between Wolverines defenders like Will Campbell, Jibreel Black and Craig Roh en route to rushing for 130 yards and three touchdowns.

    For a moment, Getz looked like a smaller, slightly faster version of Alabama running TJ Yeldon, who made the Wolverines defense look absolutely foolish Sept. 1 by breaking tackles and bouncing off defenders. 

    Getz pinballed his way through the large wall of maize and blue and was incredibly difficult to stop because of his agility and low center of gravity. 

    But he wasn't the only Falcons player to have success running the ball -- no, quarterback Connor Dietz, along with his triple-option ways, tallied 61 yards on the ground and broke loose for an 18-yard carry.

    If one thing is clear, it's this: Michigan may have NFL-sized big boys on the defensive line, but tackling has been an issue through two games -- and it extends all the way to the secondary.

    We'll get to that next.

Wolverines Linebackers Get a "D"

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    Other than Jake Ryan's pass deflection in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines linebackers didn't impress Saturday against the Air Force Falcons.

    On fourth-and-16, Ryan burst past the Falcons offensive line and swatted quarterback Connor Dietz's pass -- a pass that could have given the Falcons the lead with under two minutes to go.

    Luckily, for Michigan, Ryan's deflection kept the game in its favor, 31-25.

    As stated in the previous slide, the linebackers were just as much to blame for poor tackling as the defensive line.

    Falcons running back Mike DeWitt had 15 carries for 45 yards. He muscled his way to the second level on some carries, meeting guys like Ryan in the middle of the field. More times than not, DeWitt was able to at least shed one tackler and gain an extra foot or two after contact.

    It's evident that one of Michigan's weaknesses is stopping the run. That's an issue that needs to be addressed.

Wolverines Defensive Backs Get a "B+"

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    The Wolverines secondary wasn't terrible Saturday, but it could stand to be a little more physical during goal-line situations.

    When Air Force running back Cody Getz rushed for a five-yard touchdown, the Wolverines defensive line essentially fell apart, leaving the safeties and corners responsible to lay a hit.

    Getz bounced out to his left, outran linebackers and made it to the endzone before Wolverines safety Jordan Kovacs could apply a tackle.

    However, Wolverines secondary members like Kovacs, JT Floyd and Raymon Taylor (started for the injured Blake Countess, out for year) helped hold Falcons quarterback Connor Dietz to 129 passing yards (10-for-19).

    The secondary surrendered just one play for more than 25 yards, too. But that play should have been a touchdown had Falcons wideout Ty MacArthur caught the ball in stride; he had a wide open lane down the middle of the field.

    Chris Jordan had three catches, the most out of any Air Force receiver. MacArthur led the Falcons with 50 yards.

Wolverines Special Teams Gets a "B+"

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    Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons was more than reliable Saturday; he was perfect.

    Gibbons, who kicked the game-winning field goal in Michigan's 23-20 2012 Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech, was 4-for-4 on PAT attempts, and converted his lone field goal try (31 yards).

    The real question is this: Was Gibbons thinking of blonds or brunettes when he put those kicks through the uprights?

    It's a valid question.

    Dennis Norfleet averaged over 25 yards on kick returns, racking up 77 yards on three run backs.

    Punter Will Hagerup had two punts, finishing with a 45-yard average (one touch back, long of 53).

    Had Jeremy Gallon been able to do more with his one return -- a one-yarder -- Michigan would have earned an "A-." A big punt return, even a kickoff return for a touchdown, would have surely boosted the special teams' grade.

    Overall, an excellent showing from the punters, returners, holders and kickers.

Wolverines Coaching Gets an "S-"

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    We're reverting to an elementary-style grade scale when referencing the Wolverines coaching staff's performance.

    It was an "S-," or somewhat satisfactory.

    How do you really grade coaches? Al Borges went with what worked: Denard Robinson stole the show, Borges saw that Robinson had an advantage, so Robinson's number was called -- and quite often.

    Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison should talk to his guys, though. As stated in earlier slides, the defense was suspect, lackluster, horrible, terrible and not very good.

    Hoke gets extra credit for the shades.

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