Michigan Football: 10 Things We Learned from Wolverines' Win over the Falcons
If Saturday's Michigan Wolverines—Air Force Falcons game was indeed a "gut-check" for Denard Robinson, then he absolutely showed up, passed the test, and at least, restored Wolverines fans' faith in his abilities.
Robinson rushed and threw for over 200 yards in Michigan's 31-25 win over the Falcons at The Big House in Ann Arbor. Saturday's showing was Robinson's third 200/200 game of his collegiate career.
Jake Ryan knows that when the game is on the line, that's the time to make a big play.
Freshman Devin Funchess proved that he could fill in when needed, and the Wolverines' secondary showed that it could make up for other defensive shortcomings.
What else did we learn from Saturday's game? Find out now.
1. Denard Robinson Didn't Back Down After Loss to Alabama
After rushing for just 27 yards during Michigan's 41-14 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 1, Denard Robinson was either primed for a huge game or a huge letdown.
Fortunately, for Wolverines fans, Robinson showed up in a big way Saturday in Michigan's 31-25 win over the visiting Air Force Falcons at The Big House in Ann Arbor.
For just the third time in his collegiate career, Robinson rushed and passed for over 200 yards, racking up 208 passing yards and 218 rushing yards, including 79- and 58-yard outbursts in the Wolverines' first win of 2012.
Robinson threw for 200 yards against Alabama, but he didn't look quite as confident and collected as he did Saturday against the Falcons. Surely, the fact that he faced a lesser secondary and defense boosted his confidence, but he showed his true competitive spirit by taking the game into his own hands.
That's a good, and bad, thing for Michigan.
2. Denard Robinson Is Michigan's Only Reliable Weapon
Jeremy Gallon had 104 receiving yards against Alabama.
So, sure, he earned the right to be called an offensive threat.
Devin Funchess had 106 yards Saturday against Air Force.
So, sure, he earned the right to be called an offensive threat, too—at least while Brandon Moore is out nursing a stretched MCL.
But when it's all said and done—no matter who does what and when—Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson is truly his team's only consistently reliable offensive threat.
Michigan had contributors in 2011 like 1,000-yard rusher Fitz Toussaint, receiver Junior Hemingway and others, but through the years, through the revolving door of players, Robinson has been the one.
Michigan won't have a nine- or 10-win season if Robinson has to carry the team on his back; it just won't happen. Teams are privy to his antics. Alabama proved that elite-level teams won't be fooled by Robinson's escapades.
Air Force was the exception, though. While the Falcons certainly showed they're a solid bunch, it was all but written that Robinson would exploit them.
And he did.
The Wolverines need to reevaluate their offensive game plan and realize that riding the horse named "Shoelace" probably just won't cut it in 2012.
3. Brendan Gibbons Gives Kickers a Good Name
Michigan hasn't been known for great kickers—not like its in-state rival Michigan State.
And while Wolverines kicker Brendan Gibbons may not compare to former Spartans great Brett Swenson or current Spartans standout Dan Conroy, he certainly deserves a nod of respect.
He made his only field-goal attempt Saturday in Michigan's 31-25 win over the Air Force Falcons, but more importantly, he didn't miss any of his four point-after attempts.
The knock on Michigan kickers has been somewhat of a running joke in the state of Michigan. But, how can you dislike a guy who thinks of girls when he's kicking (via Michael Rothstein of ESPN) the ball?
Up 28-25, Gibbons extended Michigan's lead to 31-25 in the fourth quarter Saturday, sealing its win over the Falcons.
I'm not sure if many others learned much about Gibbons on Saturday, but I surely did. Having a steady kicker is key, especially in a close game. Gibbons' seven points Saturday were essentially the difference in Michigan's win—or, at the very least, a strong contributing factor.
Keep on kicking, Brendan. And keep on thinking of beautiful women when doing so.
4. Jake Ryan Knows What Time It Is
With just about two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Air Force Falcons drove down the field looking to score the go-ahead—and likely game-winning—touchdown against the host Michigan Wolverines.
It was go time. It was 4th-and-16, game on the line. But, a Wolverines linebacker knew what time it was.
Falcons quarterback Connor Dietz dropped back, looked downfield toward an open receiver and pulled back...but Wolverines linebacker Jake Ryan flew in, knocked the pass to the ground and crushed the Falcons' dreams of an upset.
That play defined clutch. Other plays have defined clutch, but Ryan's batted ball saved the Wolverines a ton of potential embarrassment.
It was that important.
5. Michigan Running Backs...Ummm...
Where are the Michigan running backs?
Wasn't Fitz Toussaint supposed to be the answer once he was reinstated to the team? Sophomore Thomas Rawls had trouble against Alabama, but Wolverines followers took comfort in knowing that Toussaint would be back, and the running game would be in business.
Nope. Didn't happen.
Toussaint had eight carries and a whopping seven yards Saturday in Michigan's win over the Falcons. The rest of the backs combined for -11 yards, giving the Wolverines a grand total of -4 when Denard Robinson's yards were taken out of the equation.
Air Force, a team with 240- and 260-pound defensive linemen, should have been a feast waiting to happen for a guy like Toussaint, a powerful, 5'10", 202-pound running back.
Though we're just two weeks into the season, the absence of a running game (minus Robinson) is loud and clear.
6. Devin Fuchess Is a Pretty Good Freshman
Admit it, you were concerned about the tight end position when it was announced that Brandon Moore would sit out with a stretched MCL.
And the fact that a freshman was slated to replace Moore alarmed you, didn't it?
Devin Funchess came to play Saturday. So much, that Michigan may not rush Moore to return any time soon. Health is a concern, MCL stretches are painful, but Michigan has a frosh ready to produce.
Funchess had a 30-yard touchdown grab in the first half against the Air Force Falcons. He also made a handy 19-yard juggling catch along the right sideline in the second half en route to posting 106 receiving yards from four catches.
Funchess produces in "bunchess?"
OK. That's no good.
But the kid had a respectable day—not a bad way to earn some reps when Moore returns.
"I was working hard in practice," Funchess said, according to Chantel Jennings of ESPN. "It just so happened that they needed me to step up this week and I had to step in and do the job."
Funchess became the first Michigan tight end since Jerame Tuman (1997) to post a 100-yard game.
"I think he did a nice job," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said about Funchess' showing. "You like to go to playmakers and so there were things set up for him, but he also makes plays. He's coming along."
7. Where Is Roy Roundtree?
It could be that Roy Roundtree's knee is bothersome.
It could be that Denard Robinson sees other receivers as better targets.
But one thing is for certain: Roundtree hasn't been much of a factor in 2012.
Michigan is just two games into the season, sure, but Roundtree was a wideout who had the potential to have a respectable year—I thought that much.
Roundtree had a five-yard catch Saturday in Michigan's win and was targeted just a few times.
8. Devin Gardner May Be a Viable WR Option After All
There were concerns about the use of Devin Gardner, concerns that stemmed back to 2011.
Would he be quarterback? Would Denard Robinson prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the one?
Well, no and yes, to an extent.
Robinson is the guy under center, and no, Gardner won't be this season.
Gardner's move to wide receiver was widely criticized and widely applauded, depending on who was asked.
Gardner's naysayers may want to rethink their opinion because the kid had a admirable day at receiver Saturday.
Gardner hauled in a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter Saturday to help Michigan bump its lead to 27-17. He had five catches, good for a total of 63 yards and even caught a 20-yarder.
Was the move the right call? Maybe it didn't appear that way against Alabama, but it looked decent against Air Force.
9. Michigan's Defense Needs Improvement (That's Being Nice)
Michigan's defense isn't...well, it isn't all that great.
Alabama proved that in Week 1, but Air Force reinforced that notion.
The Falcons lost, but not before putting up gaudy offensive numbers: Running back Cody Getz rushed for 130 yards, broke at least a dozen tackles and pinballed through the defense like a Heisman-worthy back, which he is not.
But, he looked like a star Saturday.
The Falcons rung up 26 first downs Saturday, converted 2-of-5 fourth-down attempts and rushed for a total of 290 yards. And they did all that with a group of undersized, hardly recruited players.
Not to discredit the Falcons, but they should have been steamrolled by a Michigan team that was ranked No. 8 in the preseason.
We'll get to that next, but first, more about Air Force, because it certainly deserves a hearty nod of respect.
The Big House didn't intimidate those guys. The mystique of Michigan football didn't, either. Air Force was more than capable of beating Michigan.
Don't forget that.
The Wolverines absolutely had a little luck on their side.
10. Michigan Was Grossly Overrated Entering 2012
An 11-win season in 2011 and Sugar Bowl win was enough to get Michigan in the Associated Press preseason top 10.
But, a loss to Alabama was enough to knock Michigan to No. 19, and a slim win over Air Force may not be enough to keep Michigan in the top 20 come Monday.
Let's say it: Michigan was grossly overrated entering 2012.
There really is no doubt; the Wolverines are much less a top-10 team and much more of No. 15-20. And that's judging by right now—wait until the Big Ten season starts.
I'll admit it. Michigan had me fooled, too. I thought the Wolverines had the ability to be a one-loss team this season. Of course, I knew Alabama would win Sept. 1, but even I thought the game would be close.
So far, the Wolverines have done little to impress. Denard Robinson is a one-man show, and the rest of the team better wake up before it finds itself battling for bowl eligibility.
Saturday's game was a clear indicator that Michigan has a lot more work to do than initially thought.