Michigan Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 2 Game vs. Air Force

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IISeptember 9, 2012

Michigan Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 2 Game vs. Air Force

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    The Michigan Wolverines needed a few players to rise to the occasion Saturday against the Air Force Falcons.

    And a few did, helping the 19th-ranked Wolverines squeak out a 31-25 victory over the triple-option friendly Falcons at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

    Having quarterback Denard Robinson go bananas was an obvious win for Michigan, which lost 41-14 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 1. Robinson went all "Shoelace" on the Falcons, amassing 426 total yards of offense in Michigan's first win of the season.

    However, while there were winners for Michigan on Saturday, there were also losers, specifically on the defensive side of the ball—with the exception of linebacker Jake Ryan, of course. He was clutch in the fourth quarter.

    Find out won and who lost during Michigan's Week 2 matchup with the Falcons.

Winner: Devin Funchess, but Moore and Kwiatkowski Lose

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    Michigan Wolverines coach Brady Hoke is going with youth for a reason, not because he has to.

    But, to be fair, Hoke really had no other option other than freshman Devin Funchess when it came to replacing senior tight end Brandon Moore, who sat out Saturday to nurse a stretched MCL.

    Hoke could have used Mike Kwiatkowski. But Wolverines fans are likely elated that Funchess got the call instead, because he absolutely came out a winner Saturday.

    Funchess caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Denard Robinson in the first half. That play alone was enough to take a serious look at Funchess' abilities. He's been raved about since camp, but that play truly showed that he's more than a big-bodied, short-pass type of tight end—he's a deep threat.

    And a good one, too.

    Adding to his resume was a 19-yard juggling catch that was one of the better grabs of the weekend.

    Score one for the 6'5", 230-pound frosh who tallied 106 receiving yards on six catches (26.5 average).

    Funchess was gracious when asked about his strong debut, the best showing from a Michigan tight end since Jerame Tuman had 126 yards against Colorado in 1997.

    "I just went out there and did my job like I was supposed to, like I was coached to in practice," Funchess said via MLive.com. "I learned from Brandon Moore and Mike Kwiatkowski how to get off of some kinds of coverages."

    Attaboy. Way to be humble.

    The bad news, of course—because there is bad news—is that Moore and Kwiatkowski could find themselves sliding down the depth chart due to Funchess' grand opening.

Winner: Denard Robinson (Of Course)

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    Was there too much of Denard Robinson on Saturday?

    Did the "Sholeace" tire some college football followers with his predictable antics?

    Maybe.

    But he surely entertained more than he disappointed by terrorizing the Air Force Falcons defense with 79- and 58-yard touchdown runs in Michigan's 31-25 win.

    The Wolverines' super senior accounted for 426 total yards of offense, rushing for 218 and throwing for 208.

    He. Was. Incredible.

    While the fly boys from Air Force did a great job hanging around the Wolverines, they could do nothing to stop the speed of Robinson, who looked like a maize and blue fighter jet streaking down the turf at The Big House.

    "Not to be cocky or anything, but once I get in front of everybody and I see the end zone, I don't think I'm getting caught from behind," Robinson said via USA Today when asked about his afterburners.

    Yeah, Robinson definitely won Saturday. He regained his reputation for being a menace—not that he ever really lost it—after an abysmal performance Sept. 1 against Alabama.

    He needed to have a game like he had Saturday.

Winner: Brady Hoke

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    You could bet your bottom dollar that if Michigan lost Saturday to the Air Force Falcons that some Wolverines fans would have heavily criticized head coach Brady Hoke.

    Criticism is part of the college football landscape, and had the Wolverines fallen to 0-2, Hoke's way of coaching would have come into question.

    Michigan faced a must-win scenario Saturday; it pulled through, and Hoke can now rest assured that Wolverines fans won't call for his head on a platter Rich Rodriguez-style. 

    Most Wolverines followers dealt with the loss to Alabama the only way the could: They accepted it, because the knew it was going to happen. However, a loss to Air Force—and at home—would have been something like losing to say, the Toledo Rockets or Appalachian State Mountaineers.

    Naturally, Hoke was happy with his team's win over the Falcons.

Loser: Fitz Toussaint

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    So the title reads, "Loser: Fitz Toussaint."

    Don't get your stuff in a bunch over that; he's not a "loser" by definition. He just didn't come out a winner Saturday.

    Toussaint was supposed to be the answer to Michigan's running woes suffered against the Crimson Tide on Sept. 1. He was supposed to come out, clean up and look great against the Air Force Falcons.

    He didn't.

    And now, the real question is just who will run the ball for the Wolverines when Denard Robinson isn't going to town—or, who will run the ball when Robinson can't go to town, like he Saturday?

    In essence, the entire running back corps lost against Air Force, not just Toussaint, who rushed for seven yards after carrying the ball eight times (0.9 yards per carry).

    The offensive line shoulders blame, too. Taylor Lewan confessed that he and his linemates didn't do an adequate job of creating openings for the running backs.

    "Seven yards from the running backs is awful," Lewan said via MLive.com. "We have to do a better job of re-establishing the line of scrimmage.

    "It's going to be tough for this team to be successful if we can't do that as an offensive line."

Winner: Dennis Norfleet

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    He's just 5'7" and 161 pounds, but Wolverines freshman Dennis Norfleet packs a big punch.

    The former Detroit Martin Luther King High star could see more duties if coach Brady Hoke intends on giving youngsters more chances this season.

    Maybe, just maybe, he could be worked into the offense as a slot receiver or used a running back when facing bigger, slower teams. There has to be another use for him. 

    But those are just "what ifs" for now.

    Norfleet's obvious strength is his speed, and he showcased it Saturday against the Air Force with 77 return yards, averaging 25.7 yards per touch.

    Michigan needs something new in its offense, something fast and explosive. While his size is a concern, Norfleet's fleet feet could be useful in areas other than special teams.

Loser: Defense, as a Whole

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    The 2012 Michigan Wolverines defense is beginning to look an awful lot like the Rich Rodriguez Era defenses.

    That's not a compliment.

    Under Rodriguez, the Wolverines had a defense that once ranked 118th among FBS schools.

    After being thrashed by Alabama, the Wolverines defense was called into question. However, not even a 31-25 win over the Air Force was enough to reinstate faith into the loose-tackling unit.

    The Falcons tallied 417 yards of offense compared to Michigan's 422, coming dangerously close to toppling Michigan at The Big House in Ann Arbor in the process.

    Michigan's defense ranks 81st in the FBS, giving up 424 yards per game. That's probably not the way the Wolverines wanted to start the year, especially since they ended 2011 as a top-25 defensive unit.

     

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