What we learned: Michigan week 7

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
10:00
AM ET
Michigan and Penn State needed four overtimes to decide which team would leave the field victorious. And while the answer ended up being Penn State, it seems like a few answers (and even more questions) were put out there for Michigan in the 43-40 loss. Here are three things we learned about the Wolverines on Saturday.

1. The bye week didn't solve everything. It was really easy to think that after the Wolverines were able to take a week off and focus on the basics and return to fundamentals that everything would be wonderful again. Yes, and for one game against Minnesota there were unicorns and rainbows. But reality hit hard, and Michigan -- offensively -- looked disheveled and out of place at times against Penn State. The Wolverines were 4-of-18 on third downs, and quarterback Devin Gardner had moments when it looked like it was going to be an Akron/UConn relapse. He finished the day 15-of-28 with three passing touchdowns, but those stats don't tell the whole story. He threw two interceptions, and a few of his incompletions were close to being picked off and others were just not good decisions on his part.

2. It's not just Gardner who disappears. Bueller? Bueller? Yes, here's looking at you Fitzgerald Toussaint. The redshirt senior carried the ball 27 times for a whopping 27 yards. Take out his long run of 12 yards and you have a featured back who averaged 0.6 yards per carry. Yes, Penn State had the No. 19 rushing defense in the country coming into Saturday's game, allowing just 111.4 yards per game. But Michigan better get back on the horse, because they'll face better -- Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State all boast better rushing defenses than the Nittany Lions. Michigan didn't want to have to run Gardner as much -- 24 carries, 121 yards -- but they needed him to pick up yards with his feet to be successful. And they especially needed that when the guy whose job it is to do so ... isn't.

3. The defense keeps giving the offense a place to stand. Greg Mattison has really turned around this Michigan defense since he got to Ann Arbor -- that's obvious. But sometimes the Wolverines' defense doesn't really get the credit it deserves, because the offense so consistently puts it in terrible situations. Yes, they gave up 43 points, and yes, they gave up 305 passing yards. But, they've shown major strides in several areas, and the areas that need serious improvement -- (Dear Secondary, it's called coverage. Learn it. Love it.) -- could see that kind of growth soon, too. The Wolverine defense has come up with big plays when it needs them, and with the return of linebacker Jake Ryan, this is a group that could continue to push toward bigger and better things.

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