Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Michigan's Loss
Early on, the Michigan Wolverines appeared ready to score some points.
But as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl progressed, the offense stalled, failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Saturday's 31-14 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats.
Fitz Toussaint's five-yard score did little to lessen the blow of what was easily one of the Wolverines' worst showings of 2013. Needless to say, it wasn't the ideal way to end an otherwise sad season.
Lessons taught, lessons learned. And we'll do it Michigan style.
Shane Morris Has Wheels
He entered Michigan known for his arm, but he could enter 2014 known for his mobility.
Facing continuous pressure from K-State's defense, Morris, a true frosh, escaped sacks thanks to his nimble feet. In the fourth quarter, Morris vaulted Michigan from 22 rushing yards to 62 by way of a 40-yard scamper that showcased his speed.
He may have a golden arm, but Morris can also scoot.
Michigan's Pass Rush Was Horrific
K-State quarterback Jake Waters had ample time to make the right decision. And he did so early and often while leading his team to its first bowl win since 2002.
Waters threw for 271 yards and was sacked just once. The Wolverines were hardly quarterback-maulers in 2013, finishing with 23 sacks, good for No. 7 overall in the Big Ten.
Cam Gordon recorded the only noteworthy sack for Team 134. Just one.
Michigan Should Revisit JUCO Transfer Policy
So it's not an official rule, but Michigan doesn't welcome JUCO transfers.
That should change, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
Waters, a former JUCO star at Western Iowa, looked like a polished FBS vet, not a scared JUCO kid who was in over his head vs. Michigan.
Pressure? What pressure? Waters dismantled a team that he grew up idolizing. That's the kicker. Not many teams are disposed of by quarterbacks with such a back story. Then again, Michigan is one of the most popular college teams on the planet, so it's safe to say that one or two guys have tasted sweet revenge after downing the Wolverines.
But how many of those guys were former JUCO stars? Waters may have been the first. If not, he's the most notable.
Own Worst Enemy, as Usual
With 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Michigan's Jake Ryan came up with a timely fumble recovery. As a leader of Team 134, Ryan was likely more than happy to provide a boost.
But A.J. Williams' false start on the ensuing drive pushed the Wolverines back to where they started—on their heels and in punt formation.
Shooting themselves in the foot has been a theme for the Wolverines in 2013. They lost four games by four or less points. Miscues definitely took their toll.
Lewan's Best Play Was on Defense
With about three minutes to play in the fourth, Taylor Lewan came through with perhaps his best play of the game. It wasn't a block that helped clear the way for a touchdown, which Michigan could have used.
No, it was a tackle as Dante Barnett nearly returned an interception for a touchdown. Lewan appeared to be shaken up after the play, but he returned to action anyway. His last-minute play didn't change the outcome, but it most certainly lessened the sting.
Well, kind of. A loss is a loss. Lewan's probably not happy, but at least he can rest assured knowing that he gave it his all during his final game in a Michigan uniform.
Tyler Lockett Was a One-Man Army
Tyler Lockett basically beat Michigan himself. He had help from Waters, of course, but his 10 catches for 116 yards (both K-State records) were of great assistance Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
Scoring at will, Lockett reeled in three touchdowns in the first half. He was quiet later in the game, missing what would have been his fourth touchdown catch, but it didn't matter. The damage was done, and it was done by Lockett, whose NFL stock just went up a few notches.
Should the junior choose to go pro, scouts will take one look at his Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl film and say, "Wow." Well, they should. He was incredible Saturday.
Derrick Green Continues to Be MIA
His only carry resulted in a first down, so why wasn't Derrick Green given more chances to move the sticks?
Green, a true frosh, was underused for most of 2013, only getting the call late in the year as Toussaint sputtered and struggled. For some reason, Green can't stay on the field for more than a few downs. But don't blame that on his weight gain. Green showed that he can play at the big-time level.
Al Borges, the offensive coordinator, may not have as much confidence in Green as the Michigan fanbase. However, Green should be the No. 1 option next year, as Michigan won't have Toussaint in the mix.
Borges, UM Must Not Be Confident in Morris' Arm
Borges' game plan during the first quarter was exactly what Michigan needed. Chains moved. The offense appeared to be clicking, and Morris was about to set the field on fire with his rocket-fueled arm.
Wait a minute...
That didn't happen.
Short throw after short throw, Morris was kept at an arm's length, never allowed to let the ball fly downfield.
Was it by design? Most likely. Don't forget about Michigan quarterbacks and the deep ball in 2013—that wasn't a great combination. Borges probably didn't want to be laughed out of Sun Devil Stadium after his frosh gunslinger threw a handful of picks.
It was perhaps a proactive approach, but it hindered movement as the game progressed. Morris looked ready to fire for 20 yards or more. He was throwing darts...bullets...strikes. But they were for five and 10 yards, not 20 or 30.
Maybe next year.
What's the Real Story with Gibbons?
So it wasn't a lesson learned in the bowl loss, but it's a question that needs to be answered: Was Brendan Gibbons really at home handling personal matters, or was he cast away from the program for another reason?
Rumors swirl. And they'll continue doing so for as long as Hoke and Michigan are tight-lipped.
Maybe it's nothing. But maybe it's major. A senior kicker just doesn't disappear without good reason.
What's the story, Hoke?
1. Brendan Gibbons unable to make trip due to family reasons. #BWWBowl— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) December 23, 2013
Depth at Tight End
Jake Butt is the future at tight end.
Likewise for Devin Funchess—who is more of a receiver, but who's really keeping tabs—and for A.J. Williams, who, despite a false start penalty, has the potential to be a great weapon for Morris or Devin Gardner.
Or Wilton Speight.
Butt had three catches for 33 yards and was Michigan's most imposing pass-catcher vs. K-State.
The "wait until next year" talks have been common for Michigan fans since, oh, 2006. But that saying applies to Butt, a true playmaker waiting to develop.
Of course, due to his last name, he was razzed on Twitter during the game.
Note: I feel Butt's pain. People have fun with Biggers, and it gets tiring. Let's put a stop to the booty jokes, shall we?
Jake Butt is a national phenomenon pic.twitter.com/eRIgVQYXLs— Andy Reid (@AReid_Wolverine) December 29, 2013
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81