Michigan Football: 10 Things We Learned from Wolverines' W Against Minnesota
Michigan needed Denard Robinson back in the lineup if the Wolverines were to bounce back from a 23-9 loss to the Nebraska Huskers...
Prior to Saturday's game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced that Robinson wouldn't start, and that former backup Devin Gardner would take over duties in his absence.
Bad news was on the way, or so some thought.
Gardner wasn't really expected to be a star; rather, he was expected to manage the offense and help Michigan squeak by with a victory.
But that didn't happen.
Instead, the Wolverines got the quarterback they recruited, and Gardner threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a convincing 35-13 Big Ten victory over the Gophers in Minneapolis.
Robinson's reliever completed 12 of 18 passes and threw just one interception. However, he made plenty of drive-extending plays with his feet, too, rushing for a modest 21 yards and a touchdown.
Devin Gardner Is a Quarterback After All
His first drive was a three-and-out, and then he threw an interception on his second set of downs, but Devin Gardner showed why he was recruited as a quarterback and not a wide receiver.
In his first start at Michigan, Gardner dazzled with accuracy; his playmaking skills were reminiscent of Denard Robinson, who sat out Saturday due to an undisclosed injury.
Gardner engineered two 90-plus-yard scoring drives and completed 12 of 18 passes for two touchdowns and 234 yards.
Dodging defenders for big gains and drive-extending rushes were the norm Saturday for Gardner, who was just the third quarterback to start a game for Michigan since 2009 (Tate Forcier, Robinson).
Desmond Morgan Isn't a Bad Second Fiddle
Desmond Morgan doesn't get the attention that he deserves. Playing alongside Jake Ryan does that, but that doesn't mean Morgan isn't due for a little respect.
His hit on Donnell Kirkwood in the first quarter set the tone—Minnesota knew after that collision that running the ball would be difficult.
And it was.
Kirkwood couldn't gain yards and Morgan was all over him from the start. Morgan also helped force a Gophers field goal in the fourth quarter after nearly intercepting a pass from Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson.
Morgan's pressure on Nelson forced the Gophers to the air, then back to the ground, and then back to the air—they just couldn't adjust for Morgan's intensity.
Drew Dileo Is an X-Factor Player
Drew Dileo couldn't have been more open in the second quarter when he hauled in a 45-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling Devin Gardner, who backtracked from the right side of the field to the left prior to lobbing the ball into the end zone.
Dileo had four catches for 91 yards against Michgian State (12-10 win), and came through with four grabs for 69 yards Saturday against Minnesota.
Dileo's catch late in second quarter set up Thomas Rawls; two-yard touchdown, and Michigan went up 14-7 after Brendan Gibbons' point-after attempt.
He also made an athletic 10-yard catch at midfield after Gardner ran away from pursuers. Luckily for Gardner, Dileo was willing to put his head on the line for that one.
Comeback Throw to Gallon Has to Go
Whatever it's called, it doesn't work and shouldn't be a part of the Wolverines offense.
The "comeback" throw—as I'll call it right now—to Jeremy Gallon is simply a waste of a down. Michigan ran the same play last week during its loss to Nebraska. Late in the fourth quarter, then-quarterback Russell Bellomy faked a hand-off, circled to his left, and threw to Gallon, who made a stride back toward Bellomy prior to the throw.
It was almost a pick-six then, and it was nearly one Saturday when Devin Gardner tried it in the first quarter.
Just stop running that play. It's ineffective, looks dreadful and hasn't gained positive yards.
Michigan Isn't Intimidated by Bruising Backs (Not from Alabama)
Donnell Kirkwood was rendered ineffective thanks to Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan and the rest of the Michigan defense. He ran for a career-high 142 yards this past week against Purdue, but was held to just 58 yards Saturday in a 35-13 loss to Michigan.
Kirkwood is a physical back at 5'10", 216 pounds, but he couldn't faze the Wolverines defense, which already capped Michigan State star Le'Veon Bell at 68 yards in a 12-10 victory two weeks ago.
Ryan chased him, Morgan hit him. Kirkwood went nowhere.
Target Devin Funchess
Earlier this year, I thought that Devin Funchess was well on his way to becoming a staple in the Wolverines offense.
He's not a flash-in-the-pan, I wrote. But wait, maybe he is.
It seems that way.
Funchess was targeted just thrice Saturday, with two passes coming his way in the first half. While one of the throws was well behind him, the other was quite catchable. Funchess has to find a way to be consistent and catch passes when he's targeted.
That's the only way he'll get more reps. And Michigan would be a dynamic offense with a legitimate threat at tight end.
Jake Ryan Continues Monstrous Ways
Jake Ryan is a force of nature.
The Wolverines linebacker wasn't fooled in the third quarter when the Gophers tried to run a reverse through KJ Maye.
Later in the fourth, Ryan snubbed Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who tried to sneak into the end zone on 2nd-and-goal.
Nelson's attempt was thwarted, and Minnesota settled for a failed fake field goal.
Again, this isn't something "new." We've seen Ryan dominate nearly every offensive line he's been up against this year. He's easily one of the top five linebackers in the nation.
Big Plays by the Gallon: Jeremy Gallon Continues to Rise
Jeremy Gallon makes big plays.
Whether it's a 70-yard screen pass or a 20-yard sideline catch, Gallon's knack for hauling in important catches has been evident all season.
He had a 10-yard touchdown catch Saturday during Michigan's 35-13 win over Minnesota that gave Michigan a 20-7 edge in the second half.
We didn't really just learn this, but it's a lesson that needs to be addressed each time Gallon shines. He's a touchdown waiting to happen.
Houdini Act: Roy Roundtree Sighting
He's been spotty this season, and a Roy Roundtree catch has been as anonymous and rare as a Fitz Toussaint touchdown.
However, Roundtree's 48-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up Devin Gardner's two-yard touchdown run—so he deserves a nod of respect for coming through when Michigan needed him to help seal the deal against the Gophers.
Gardner's touchdown gave Michigan a 27-10 lead prior to Brendan Gibbons' point-after attempt.
JT Floyd Has to Look at Ball
JT Floyd has developed into an effective corner for Michigan.
But he needs to look back at the ball or risk getting called for pass interference, something that's happened at least twice this season.
And that was prior to Saturday's call.
Floyd draped Gophers receiver Marquise Gray, a 6'5", 250-pounder. Sure, the size advantage was clearly in Gray's favor, but Floyd didn't even bother to look back at the ball.
Had he played the ball and not Gray, a pass interference call would have been much more difficult to make.
Floyd was later called for interference during a play near the right front pylon on the same fourth-quarter drive—just another example of poor awareness by Floyd. Luckily, Minnesota got a field goal out of the gift-wrapped drive.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81