- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Michigan football team has been under a bit of fire recently. Some are saying that its trying too hard to fit its personnel, which might be better fit for a spread offense, into a pro-style -- the old square-peg-round-hole dilemma.
But on Saturday, in a 63-47 win that showed an outpouring of 751 yards of total offense, the Wolverines opened up the playbook and its minds a bit. Of the 83 offensive plays, the breakdown between Michigan being in the shotgun formation (46 percent) versus under center (52 percent) was a bit more even and that left the Indiana defense in some tough positions. The result was a dynamic offensive performance.
So, since we have a bit more time to analyze Michigan’s offense than the IU defense did in game, here’s exactly what the Wolverines did.
Run plays: 29 | Pass plays: 14
Michigan rushed the ball 29 times for 125 yards (4.3 yards per carry).
Five of the Wolverines’ seven rushing touchdowns came while quarterback Devin Gardner was under center.
All four of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint's touchdowns came while Gardner was under center, though his personal average per carry under center is nearly half of what it is when Michigan runs the shotgun.
Five of running back Derrick Green’s six carries came when Gardner was under center.
Gardner completed 9 of 14 passes when he was under center and averaged 35.7 yards per completion.
Michigan’s five longest passing plays started with Gardner under center -- Gallon had two 70-yard receptions, a 50-yard touchdown reception and a 33-yard reception while wide receiver Devin Funchess recorded a 38-yard catch. The longest passing play out of the shotgun was a 27-yard pass to Toussaint.
Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon was Gardner’s target of choice against the Hoosiers, catching 14 passes. Those passes were evenly split between under center and the gun, however his passes were far more productive when Gardner was under center -- 271 receiving yards when Gardner was under center, 98 receiving yards when Gardner was in the gun.
Run plays: 23 | Pass plays: 15
Michigan rushed the ball 23 times for 118 yards (5.1 yards per carry).
Two of the Wolverines’ seven rushing touchdowns came out of the gun, though five of Toussaint’s seven longest rushes came out of the gun. His two longest, a 27-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard rush, were when Gardner was under center.
Gardner completed 12-of-15 passes out of the gun and averaged 15.2 yards per completion.
Gardner’s completion percent out of the gun against Indiana was 16 percent higher than it was when he was under center.
Gardner accounted for 10 carries when Michigan was in the shotgun formation. However two of those were for losses when he was sacked (minus-22 yards in total).
Two of Gardner’s three rushing touchdowns came when he was in the gun.
Run plays: 2
Michigan only rushed the ball twice out of the pistol. Toussaint recorded a 4-yard rush and Gardner kept the ball once for a 1-yard gain.
The Wolverines’ first play out of halftime was in the pistol. That play was followed up with putting Gardner back under center.
The Wolverines have been working very hard to get its run game going. Last weekend against Penn State, the Wolverines couldn’t get any kind of leverage and as a result their run game (outside of Gardner) suffered miserably. Toussaint averaged one yard per carry and Green carried the ball three times for a net gain of 1 yard. Against Indiana, the Wolverines as a whole averaged 4.6 yards per carry -- a huge improvement from the previous weekend.
Under center: four carries, 38 yards, 9.5 YPC, 1 TD
Shot gun: 10 carries, 42 yards, 4.2 YPC, 2 TD
Pistol: one carry, 1 yard
Under center: 19 carries, 73 yards, 3.8 YPC, 4 TD
Shot gun: 12 carries, 74 yards, 6.2 YPC
Pistol: one carry, 4 yards
Under center: five carries, 19 yards, 3.8 YPC
Shot gun: one carry, two yards
Overall, the offensive performance was something the Wolverines can definitely be proud of and look to build on as it faces some tougher defenses on the horizon. Michigan State, who the Wolverines will see after the bye week, is the No. 1 defense in the nation, giving up just 228 yards of offense per game.
The Spartans’ rushing defense is giving up just 59.1 yards per game. The next best rushing defense in the country is Rutgers, which gives up 84 yards per game on the ground, more than 20 yards behind MSU, allowing 84 rushing yards per game.
So with a bye week, Michigan will have an opportunity to look at game film and see how exactly it will decide to attack the best defense in the nation. But if the 751 yards against IU has any kind of pull, it’s likely that the Wolverines will attempt to stay as versatile as they were on Saturday.