Michigan Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Northwestern Game
After Saturday's 38-31 overtime win over Northwestern, there's definitely a new hero in town.
For the second consecutive game, Devin Gardner quarterbacked Michigan to a victory while an injured Denard Robinson remained on the bench.
With Gardner showing he can come through under pressure, fans are beginning to wonder if he should retain the quarterback job even when Robinson gets well.
Seriously, the Wolverines should easily dispose of struggling Iowa regardless of who plays quarterback.
But it might be wise for Michigan to play both signal-callers at Columbus, similar to how Northwestern attacked Michigan.
Along with Gardner's heroics against Northwestern, there were other solid performances in the victory.
Let's follow along to see how the Wolverines fared.
Devin Gardner, Grade: A-
Head coach Brady Hoke was impressed with how Devin Gardner handled the game-tying drive in the dying seconds and was thrilled with his composure in overtime.
Hoke was also excited about how Gardner handled the game overall.
"I think Devin was very consistent," Hoke said during his postgame press conference. "I thought he stayed in the game and managed the offense. He had the one bad throw, probably two of them during the course of the game. He's just got to see the field a little better, but he moved our offense."
"I thought he did a nice job on third down," Hoke added. "I think we were 7-of-10, which is pretty good."
Gardner completed 16 of 29 passes for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for 47 yards and two more scores.
RB: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Grade: B-
FB: Stephen Hopkins, Grade: C
Against Northwestern, Michigan’s running game was a carbon copy of nearly every game this season.
Fitz Toussaint was mostly ineffective rushing the football, except for a 50-yard run in the second quarter that ended with a lost fumble on Northwestern’s three-yard line.
Toussaint redeemed himself late in the third quarter when he caught a pass from Devin Gardner then weaved his way 28 yards for a touchdown. Fitz also had a few other positive runs, and backup Thomas Rawls had a crushing one-yard touchdown run.
Stephen Hopkins rarely carries the ball now that he’s a fullback. In some offenses, fullbacks occasionally catch passes but hardly ever at Michigan. Here, the fullback mainly lead blocks for the rushing back or pass blocks for the quarterback.
WR: Jeremy Gallon, Grade: A-
WR: Roy Roundtree, Grade: A
TE: Mike Kwiatkowski, Grade: B-
For a receiver who’s struggled since catching 72 passes in 2010, making the big catch to set up the game-tying field goal couldn’t have been more gratifying.
"Thursday we ran the same play and he just put it up there for me," Roy Roundtree said after the game. "I told him all game, 'Just put the ball up there and I'm going to go get it for you.' And God forbid I tipped it to myself and come down with it and there was no review so I'm good."
Roundtree finished the game with five receptions, 139 yards and quite a smile.
Whether it's Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner at quarterback, Jeremy Gallon is Michigan’s go-to receiver. Against Northwestern, Gallon finished with seven catches for 94 yards, giving him a team-leading 29 catches for the year.
Mike Kwiatkowski starts at tight end, but Michigan sometimes uses two- and three-tight end sets.
A.J. Williams is brought in as an extra blocker, then Devin Funchess can be inserted as a pass-catching halfback.
Funchess caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season Saturday, which gave Michigan a short-lived 28-24 lead.
Gardner found him over the middle from eight yards out.
LT: Taylor Lewan, Grade: C+
LG: Ricky Barnum, Grade: C-
C: Elliott Mealer, Grade: C
RG: Patrick Omameh,Grade: C+
RT: Michael Schofield,Grade: C
While Michigan's pass protection has been adequate, Michigan's run blocking has not. Against Northwestern, Fitz Toussaint was able to pull off enough decent runs to help the confidence of the offensive line. Taylor Lewan sees Toussaint and the Michigan running game actually moving forward.
"I am happy to see him (Toussaint) run," Lewan said in his postgame press conference. "I have told him every time we start a game to start running and we will start blocking. I think today started to work out that way. I was happy with it. We (the offensive line) always need to fix things and work on things to continue to be successful."
The Wolverines can continue their confidence building next weekend when they face an Iowa team that is seventh in the Big Ten, allowing 154.6 rushing yards per game. Toussaint rushed for just 58 yards in the Iowa loss a year ago while Denard Robinson added another 55.
WDE: Brennen Beyer, Grade: D+
DT: Will Campbell, Grade: C
NT: Quinton Washington, Grade: D
SDE: Craig Roh, Grade: B
All season long, Michigan has had trouble rushing the passer. Against Air Force and now Northwestern, the Wolverines have also been unable to handle the option attack.
The common denominator is the lack of penetration from the defensive line. The Wolverines were only able to register two sacks against the Wildcats—one by Craig Roh and the other by Jibreel Black.
To get any type of pressure, Michigan must do a sizable amount of blitzing, which often leaves the secondary in single coverage.
Will Campbell, who's become an adequate interior lineman, had five tackles while Frank Clark had four and Craig Roh had three.
Starting defensive end Brennen Beyer may have earned himself a spot in the doghouse with a senseless personal foul late in the game.
WILL: Desmond Morgan, Grade: B-
MIKE: Kenny Demens, Grade: B
SAM: Jake Ryan, Grade: C+
It goes without saying, but the lack of penetration from the defensive line caused all kinds of problems.
Whether it was Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian doing the passing, Michigan was often forced into coverage mismatches.
Both Kenny Demens and Cam Gordon were beaten for touchdowns defending passes.
Against the run, Demens and Desmond Morgan each had nine tackles while Jake Ryan had just four.
Freshman James Ross had his most impressive showing, with six tackles.
CB: Raymon Taylor, Grade: B-
CB: J.T. Floyd, Grade: C+
FS: Thomas Gordon, Grade: A-
SS: Jordan Kovacs, Grade: B
Thomas Gordon continues his improvement. From his tackle on the game’s first play to a third-down stop on Venric Mark (which set up Michigan’s final drive), Gordon was all over the field.
He finished the game with 11 tackles, the last being for a five-yard loss.
Jordan Kovacs, who has been honored by wearing uniform No. 11, broke up a pair of passes to go along with five tackles.
Originally, No. 11 was worn by the three Wistert brothers: Francis (1931-33), Albert (1940-42) and Alvin (1947-49).
To stop the option, Michigan was often forced to commit an extra man to the run, so the cornerbacks were often left in single coverage. Both Raymon Taylor and J.T. Floyd were challenged, making one wonder if Blake Countess (out for the season) could have made a difference.