Sun & Bluesday: Hello This is Dog

By Johnny Ginter on September 24, 2013 at 11:15a

Once more into the breach, Michigan stared down a mighty foe in the final seconds of an early season out of conference game and somehow, miraculously, emerged unscathed.

This was a weird game for a lot of reasons, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most is the fact that Fitz Toussaint ended up winning the damn thing despite my almost near constant mockery of his abilities. Gardner had a just completely terrible game, outperforming his Huskie counterpart Chandler Whitmer (but only in the sense that Whitmer lost).

The defense didn't get beat quite as often as they normally do and looked stout against the run, but the big caveat is that this was against Just Uconn who now ranks dead last in the country in overall rushing offense. Greg Mattison is probably happier about the face his squad was able to survive four Michigan turnovers, but yeah, UConn man! Michigan is now 4-0 and have a Bye week to sort things out, but after that they welcome the Golden Gophers to the Big House in a game that they could easily drop.

Just to repeat that, there is a very real possibility that Michigan gets worked by Minnesota. In the Big House.

Once again, Ace from MGoBlog and I sift through the detritus that was the UConn game.

Quarter 1

DRINK! Michigan actually looked pretty decent on their first possession, but Devin Gardner needed to fulfill some kind of blood contract and threw an interception for the ninth consecutive game. Then Michigan largely took the ball out of the hands of Gardner and instead put it in his feet, with the result being a touchdown. The quarter ended on a high note with Gardner getting nailed in the backfield two times in a row. 7-0 Michigan.

Johnny: From the looks of things, UConn figured out the script to beat Michigan but really couldn't execute it well in the first quarter. What's the bigger issue in the secondary, scheme or personnel?

Ace: Until Greg Mattison fails to produce a top-20 defense nationally despite battling through serious depth issues and a lack of top-tier talent (as he's done the last two seasons, though the depth/talent excuse goes away next year), I'm very hesitant to question anything scheme-related defensively. The big issue with the secondary is that, aside from Blake Countess, the cornerbacks are routinely getting beat over the top, which forces Mattison into vanilla two-deep schemes with soft coverage on the outside; Michigan isn't giving up much in the way of big plays, and a lot of the pass defense issues are on the linebackers (especially Joe Bolden), but they are allowing a few too many easy yards by playing off—and the non-Countess corners are still getting beat over the top once or twice a game, which is deeply concerning.

That said, the defense allowed just 5.0 YPA against UConn while shutting down the run entirely; they currently stand 22nd in the country in passing efficiency defense. This isn't remotely close to the biggest concern about the team.

Quarter 2

Some people were theorizing that Devin got spooked by his INT, which led to some tentativeness in the second quarter, but since that's pretty old hat for him I can't really see that being the case. A long touchdown pass for UConn was called back, but they completed the drive anyway. Another Gardner INT, a really dumb gift turnover off a punt that lead to a touchdown, and the Michigan half of the crowd started tugging nervously at their ascots. 14-7 ...UConn???

Johnny: Is Devin Gardner broken? I've never really taken him for anything more than a decent QB with great athletic ability, but the past two games have been especially bad for him.

Thank you Based Hoke"Great job, great effort!"

Ace: Your guess is as good as mine. Gardner, much more than Denard, has the capability to sit in the pocket, go through his reads—or even make (gasp!) pre-snap adjustments, which the coached didn't really trust Denard to do—and make NFL-level throws, and of course he's pretty dangerous on the run. The last couple games, however, his mechanics have broken down—an issue that cropped up against OSU and South Carolina last year—and he's making inaccurate throws while also being careless with the football when he runs.

The first pick to Jeremy Gallon wasn't a poor decision; he didn't set his feet and the throw sailed, hitting Gallon's outstretched fingertips instead of his uniform numbers. Jehu Chesson could've done more to adjust to the football on Gardner's second pick, though it wasn't the best of decisions to huck it deep to a well-covered freshman on first down. Those are easy things to correct. The part where he loses his mind once or twice a game and does something astoundingly stupid is something for which I don't have an explanation, nor any idea if it can be corrected this year.

Quarter 3

BUTTFUMBLE! Gardner turned the ball over for the seventh time in two games, and UConn scooped it up for a touchdown. The teams glared angrily at each other for a bit, until Fitz Toussaint reeled off a 35 yard touchdown run to get Michigan back in the game. UConn missed a field goal, and I started to think I've seen this script before. 21-14 UConn.

Johnny: Let's talk positives! Uh, you go first.

Ace: ...

Okay, I guess there's Fitz Toussaint, who must read 11W, because he came to prove that he can be relied upon if he just gets even half-decent blocking up front. His worst runs were mostly of the "guy blowing up the play before it ever had a chance" variety; his best included two gorgeous cutbacks on the speed option touchdown and a couple very patient runs that ended with bursts into the secondary late in the game. Fitz looking like 2011 Fitz was easily the biggest positive on offense.

Defensively, I have no complaints. Despite being routinely put in horrible situations—UConn had drives start on their 37, 41, 44, and the Michigan 9 and 34 in a six-drive span, and (surprise!) scored all three of their TDs in that sequence—the defense held the Huskies to 206 total yards on 3.6 yards per play. UConn had 13 drives of significance (and one end-of-half kneeldown), which is a whole lot considering Michigan's plodding pace offensively, and the defense not only held up through the whole game but turned in the biggest play in Desmond Morgan's late interception.

Quarter 4

A promising Michigan drive ended on downs (Gardner fumbled again but at least this time he fell on it), but Desmond Morgan responded by making an unbelievable effort on an INT and took it to the UConn 12. Toussaint immediately converted the TD, and tied the ball game. The Wolverines added a field goal to take the lead, and UConn (like Akron before them) started a doomed final drive in a misguided attempt to win the game. They borked it, and Michigan remained undefeated. Somehow. 24-21 Michigan.

Johnny: Only two more wins to be bowl eligible!

Ace: Hooray!

I spent the entire weekend trying to convince myself that I didn't see Courtney Avery's man beat him clean over the top with no help in sight on UConn's last-gasp fourth-down play, and have clearly failed to do so. Thank you, Chandler Whitmer, for being Chandler Whitmer and not just about any other starting quarterback in the FBS.


Johnny: Sweet, merciful Bye week! I honestly don't know what's going on with Devin at the moment. The easy way out would be to lay this all at the feet of the offensive line (which has been godawful), but his decision making has gotten worse somehow. Again, the dude has turned the ball over SEVEN TIMES in the last two games.

Here's what I'm seeing: Gardner isn't great at looking downfield in the pocket right now, so they try to roll him out to hit guys like Gallon and Chesson and sometimes Butt on the edge. The problem is that the tackles have been getting worked by opposing d-lines and collapsing the play before Devin has any idea what to do. Lewan and Toussaint both had decent games against UConn, but overall the body of work is not good.

The defense looked... better, but considering UConn scored more points against Michigan than they did against Towson I'm not sure that this performance is something to crow about. Frank Clark had an outstanding game though, and the linebackers looked solid-ish. Something to build on, right?

Ace: I disagree with large portions of your overview while maintaining the same level of concern over this team's obvious issues, which can't be a good sign. The tackles have been very good aside from one time against UConn that Michael Schofield got beat off the edge. (Lewan's sack allowed was a blown line call, as you can see the entire line slide to the right before Lewan realizes that was an awful call and fruitlessly tries to recover.) Otherwise, pretty much all the pressure on Gardner has originated from up the middle—usually against center Jack Miller, who allowed a nose tackle to get into the backfield almost immediately on a three-man rush in this game, which [pulls hair out], or on designed waggles that intentionally leave a man unblocked. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a shakeup on the offensive line during the bye week, with Graham Glasgow—who's been a decent left guard and has more size than Miller—moving to center and 330-pound behemoth Chris Bryant stepping in at guard, which may actually give Michigan the size to hold the point of attack and run power.

The defense, again, played as well as could reasonably be asked considering the situation, and since seven of UConn's points came on a fumbled QB sneak that Towson comparison is pretty irrelevant. I'm not that high on Clark's performance—he did it against UConn's backup right tackle, who is awful (yes, I watched extensive film on UConn, and hate my life for it)—but he at least showed signs of life.

What we've established through four games is this team lives and dies with Gardner every bit as much as they did with Denard. It's all about limiting the turnovers; given the body of evidence, I'm not particularly optimistic that this team can compete for a Big Ten title—that is, until I look around at the rest of the division, where Northwestern may be the best team but are saddled with the toughest conference schedule.


Comments Show All Comments

niblick's picture

their fans could learn a lot from Ace and the honesty with which he posts.  Keep that guy around here!!

Buckeye-in-DC's picture

This is totally irrelevant, but anyone know why Gardner has been wearing #98?

BuckeyeLurker0509's picture

because he throws like a defensive end.

Earle's picture

I believe it is his projected number of turnovers this year.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

nmaxwell's picture


GoBucksOSU's picture

To honor Tom Harmon one of their great QBs. Other players are wearing "legends" numbers too.

EnlistedBuckeye's picture

He is wearing it in honor of Tom Harmon who was the first Heisman trophy winner at scUM and he happened to serve I belive during WW2. I dont know the whole story of why but they decided to un-retire his jersey so Gardner could "honor" it. That and honestly I think Gardner is looking for cheap  publicity. Everyone wants to know why that QB is wearing 98. But maybe it is the right reason...this is causing everyone to ask everyone about it and maybe find out more about Harmons service record. But that would be why? I bet he is pissed somewhere in the afterlife that such a crappy QB has his #.

The Butler's picture

If you listen closely at the big house, you can hear a low, humming noise. At first, they thought that someone had left a fan running. Turns out it's Tom Harmon spinning in his grave...

I've trained Canaries in the sport of falconry.


nmaxwell's picture

as a michigan fan, i'm not a fan of the legend patches and changing of numbers.  but not sure how you think gardner is looking for cheap publicity if you take off your scarlet tinted glasses.  most of these players are given notice that they are going to receiver the number, from what i've read, but the coaches don't ask "who wants #98?" and i doubt devin was pushing for it.  he, like denard before him, seems like a well-rounded young man who just happens to play for the team you all hate.  you can hate him on the field, but i don't see where he's done anything non-football related to make people think he's a POS attention whore.
as said in the breakdown of the uconn game, gardner is a decent QB which above average athleticism that is making some TERRIBLE decisions.  some of that is on the OL, but plenty of that is on him as well.  his confidence is shot, and he's playing about as terribly as he could (please let this be rock bottom).
i am happy the defense has survived as well as it has, and hope jack miller, who routinely blocks no one at all, is sitting on the bench against minnesota.  i'd rather hoke's perfect record at home not end until The Game, where it is very, very likely to happen, barring some ridiculous OL turnaround similar to wisconsin's from last year, and gardner turning into russell wilson or dan persa with his decision-making.  neither seem likely

EnlistedBuckeye's picture

Then switch it...the athletic dept. is looking for cheap publicity. Anyone on the team could be wearing the #98 but they choose to give it to a QB. Just so people talk about.

BeijingBucks's picture

Tom just called... He wants his jersey back

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

JasonR's picture

To honor actor Mark Harmon's father, who must have played for them or something.

Earle's picture

Loved him in Summer School.


Snarkies gonna snark. 

BuckeyeChief's picture

"Take your seats"
"Where do we take them?"

"2014 National with it!!!"

Buckeyeneer's picture

My zipper got stuck.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Hovenaut's picture

I think I heard the entire state of M...igan emit a collective, Chainsaw-inspired tension breaker sometime around 8 p.m. Saturday night.

Had to be done.

Michael Citro's picture

Who wants gum?

GoBlue91's picture

It was cooler when Gardner was pwning Notre Dame, but it's in honor of Tom Harmon, who was one of those outrageous old-timey athletes in the leather helmet days.   (And is also Mark Harmon's dad).
It's still kind of cool because it drives traffic to Tom Harmon's wikipedia page, but it would be cooler if it was on a Heisman candidate.*
*Like Kenny G!**
 ** Aaaargh!

jbcuky's picture

In honor of Tom Harmon, Michigan's only non-Ohio Heisman trophy winner.

hodge's picture

As others have said, it's to honor him by allowing him to wear a legend's jersey.
Anyone else out here absolutely hate  this policy?  I can't imagine a better way to devalue the honor of having one's jersey retired.  Maybe it wouldn't irritate me so much if it was only like once in a blue moon (like a Heisman-calibre wideout donning Desmond's number for the OSU-Michigan game), but it just seems to be so overdone with Michigan that it's diluting the actual "honor" that it should be to don a legend's jersey.
In summary, I don't think Gardner's good enough to deserve the honor, and I don't think these kind of things should ever  happen more than once  a year--and only then it should be the absolute best-of-the-best players (which would mean that in some years, no one gets the honor at all).  For example, if Jake Long donned Gerald Ford's number in a big game, I don't think I'd have cared so much.

alust2013's picture

I agree, I thought it was kinda neat for the Notre Dame game, but that should have been it. That would be kinda like Hall or Hyde rocking #45, which I wouldn't be a big fan of even for one game, let alone three or however many Gardner will wear #98.

...and Michigan still sucks.

lippertini's picture

Google Devin Gardner Mark Harmon 98

njclebuckeye5's picture

Johnny I commend your restraint. my interview would've just been "hahahaha sooo you guys suck. how does it feel?"
Ace seems like a classy guy.

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

JasonR's picture

I'd rather not visit mgoblog, so I'm asking the they have a similar feature with 11W staff?

GoBlue91's picture

Not yet, but I've been lobbying for it.
To be fair, we don't have anyone as funny as Ginter, but I'd still love to see it. 

bedheadjc's picture

DRINK! Michigan.....

Johnny, was this a reference to Costner's "Wyatt Earp"? (The "DRINK!" part?)

Jack Fu's picture

FYI: second quarter summary refers to Gardner as "Denard."

Johnny Ginter's picture

lol I KEEP MAKING THIS MISTAKE thanks for the heads up!

nmaxwell's picture

noticed that...probably because their arm-punts and debilitating mistakes look so similar, it's making one or both writers nostalgic...ace because regardless of how denard played, everyone loved him, and johnny, obviously because of how denard played

Seattle Linga's picture

I was told by a close friend of mine that it is to remind Hoke that, that is how many Jelly Donuts he can have after a big win.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I know I will never get a straight answer to this question from the TSUN fans but I'm guessing deep down inside, they are wondering if the .500 coach they hired, thinking it was just a product of the venue, is going to turn out to be just that! 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

blueinsconsin's picture

I'm not questioning the Hoke hire yet.  There have been a lot of growing pains, as expected, but there have also been a lot of good things as well - recruiting, Sugar Bowl victory for example.  I think against Akron the team was over looking them and not prepared, that's on Hoke.  But, the turnovers from both the Akron and UCONN games are on the players.  Hopefully they figure it out during the bye week.  If we're still seeing these things in 2015/2016 consistently, the Hoke hire was a mistake.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Thanks for the honesty - I was just wondering what the temperature meter on Hoke was standing at right now.  The Akron game was unsettling but back to back games usually has the potential to spark a few conversations/thoughts.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

blueinsconsin's picture

I think there are too many questions that need to be answered before the pitchforks and torches come out and those answers won't really come until the 2015-2016 seasons.  If at that point they are still only a 8 win team, then the seats will be hot.  As of right now, I'm very pleased all around with the direction of the program.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

hail2victors9's picture

Unsettling, to say the least.  Like Blue said, the coaches aren't committing the turnovers.  I was irate over the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 well inside field goal range down 7 with the majority of the 4th quarter to play.  I think that's automatic there.  Borges didn't call a very good game, either, IMO.
Hoke's seat is still not even warm, for me.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

EnlistedBuckeye's picture

You all say "Sugar Bowl Victory" like you actually beat someone, and that you even belonged to be there. But the little kids down the road from you deserved that game.

blueinsconsin's picture

Michigan State had their chance to get to a BCS game and they lost it to Wisconsin.  They can't complain when they held their future in their own hands.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

BME_Buckeye's picture

Unrelated to your post but how long are you guys giving Hoke to win a Big Ten title before the MgoBlue community gets restless? If not this year, do you start to get unsettled....

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


TheTeam16's picture

I think rational Michigan fans all point to 2015 as the year we should see the kind of play we expect at UM to return. Next year the OL is going to be worse (yes it's hard to believe) than it is this year. Gotta get all those 4 and 5 star linemen to be upperclassmen. The greatest determinate of great OL play is years in the same system, and total starts. We have neither this year, and it will be worse next year. Can't expect too much out of the offense til that is resolved. 

blueinsconsin's picture

2015, exactly.  His classes will start to have some experience and the youth excuse can not be used any longer.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

GoBlue91's picture

I think most people just want to see solid improvement.   As long as each area of the game is better than it was last year, Hoke can probably take a while to win Big 10, and frankly, if he can beat you guys half the time and keep producing top 15 recruiting classes, winning B1G is probably not that important.
IMHO, the kiss of death for RichRod is that secondary and special teams were actually getting worse, year after year.   

TheTeam16's picture

He cannot be on the hot seat yet. I know people don't like the excuse of his players are not on the field...but its true. Look at UM OL recruiting under RR...out of all the classes he recruited, we have had one great lineman, and two serviceable ones. in 2010...he did not recruit a SINGLE offensive line prospect. That is awful, and unacceptable. Football games are won on the offensive line. 

Ethos's picture

Bottom Line: If you are finding yourself defending anything about your team when it comes to a game against UCONN, your team sucks.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

blueinsconsin's picture

It's inexcusable for sure.  Just shows that no matter who you are playing, you can't consistently go and just give them the ball.  The turnovers have been absolutely ridiculous these last two weeks and have kept both Akron and UCONN in the game.  Should never happen.  It's very frustrating because when Gardner is on, he's very good, but when he's off, man...its so off

Not here to troll...Go Blue

Ethos's picture

well i hope you improve because this whole michigan sucking every year got old pretty fast.  Much more fun when there are two juggernauts.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

longstb's picture

It seems like Gardner is thinking too much to me.  When he is on, he gets into the flow and let's his athletic ability take over - then he is a real threat.  Seems to me that he is trying to force things.


blueinsconsin's picture

Agreed.  Hopefully he clears his mind on this bye week and gets back to the Garder of week 1 and 2 (minus the worst play ever against ND).  

Not here to troll...Go Blue

HandsOfSweed's picture

Semi-fair point about turnovers. However, Akron and Connecticut turnovers have also kept Michigan in both games.

Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

It's very frustrating because when Gardner is on, he's very good, but when he's off, man...its so off

I have to disagree with you on this man. Looking through his career game stats, there has never been a whole game when he was "on". He has only rushed for 100 yards once, last week against Akron, and that was more desperation than anything. Since his re-reinvention as a quarterback he hasn't had one game where he hasn't thrown an interception. By comparison, Braxton Miller in 2012 alone had 6 100 yard rushing games and 5 games without an interception.  In 175 more passing attempts, Miller has three less interceptions. And while I didn't mean this post to be about comparison between TTUN's quarterback and OSU's, Kenny G has much better stats in about one less game than Gardner against close to the same caliber opponents.
I get the whole "Oh, he's just a freakishly good athlete" thing, but I haven't seen anything more than a wide receiver playing quarterback.

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed - when the game is over by halftime it's not a lot of fun.

Arctic Buckeye's picture

My hat is off to those of you on both sides of the state line that have, thus far, engaged in intelligent and/or fun conversation.  No matter how hard it is from me to cheer for them we are, after all, measured by the competition we face.  So, I for one, hope they pull their heads out of their fifth point of contact…until the last game of the regular season when they get their afore mentioned helmet holder embarrassingly placed back where it has come used to residing… Just my humble opinion...     

Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

What amazed me is for a team that had a 100 yard rusher, they sure didn't look like they had a running game at all. I only got to watch the second half, but there seemed to be so many times where the running back would just run into the line and wait to be tackled. How did Gardner not make it on that 4th down "run"? Was that actually a designed play?

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

hspbuy1's picture

The Devin I watched reminded me a lot of Tate Forcier, after one solid hit he hurried everything,the sound of footsteps seemed to control his game to much.  IMO if that wolfarine O-line play doesn't improve quickly they'll lose more than a few Big Ten games! 


pjtobin's picture

I'm glad they won. I'm sick of the world hating the Big Ten. I know, I know, I too was wanting the upset. I would have loved it. Yet the more I hear about SOS the more I get irritated. It's a fact that we need our opponents to be "good". 
The way it's going hoke will be gone by 2015. IMO. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad.