- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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It was far from an exciting game. But the Wolverines' 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl showed a lot about this team. Here are three things we learned about Michigan in its loss.
1. The young guys are the bright spot for this team. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris stepped in for an injured Devin Gardner and exceeded nearly everyone's expectations. He finished the game 24-of-38 passing for 196 yards and rushed for a team-high 43 yards on four carries (one of those carries was a season-long 40 yarder for the Wolverines). On top of that, tight end Jake Butt finished out his surprising season with three catches for 33 yards. Freshman running back De'Veon Smith got the most carries of the day, though he produced only seven yards off four carries. The surprise was Derrick Green's lack of carries, but still he has a definite future at Michigan. It definitely wasn't the kind of outcome the Wolverines wanted, but the experience for these young players on a stage like this will be valuable in their futures. If they continue to grow, this offense could be quite good.
2. The chemistry between Gardner and Jeremy Gallon was key this year. Gallon accounted for 89 yards on nine catches. Gallon is certainly a talented receiver but this game showed how much of a difference the QB-WR chemistry factor makes for a talented wide receiver. Whether it was an awareness of where Gallon was on the field or knowing exactly how Gallon wanted the ball and at what speed, Gardner had an ability to find the senior. Morris was able to get Gallon the ball, but not at the same kind of level that Gardner generally did. The chemistry between Gallon and Gardner came from years of throwing to one another, so it's not a huge surprise that Gardner's absence affected Gallon. This wasn't Gallon's best game from a statistical perspective, but it does show how much of a difference those long hours in the summer and after practice really make.
3. The defense's performance against OSU wasn't an aberration. The defense that allowed 526 yards against Ohio State and gave up big play after big play made another appearance in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Wolverines choked up 420 yards to the Wildcats. Kansas State tallied 11 plays of 10 or more yards, including four plays of 20 or more. And it was a pretty balanced attack in those big plays, showing that there were breakdowns all over the field. Of those 11 plays, six were passing and five were rushing. Michigan had a true freshman quarterback making his first start -- that was supposed to be the area where Michigan would struggle most. But the Michigan D stepped up and took that honor by giving the OSU game an encore.
13hMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
3dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman