Michigan Wolverines: Instant Analysis

TAMPA, Fla. -- Quick thoughts after South Carolina's wild 33-28 victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl:

It was over when: South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson found receiver Bruce Ellington wide open down the field with 11 seconds left, scoring a 32-yard touchdown. Michigan had scored with 3:29 left on a pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon, all part of a fast-paced fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders. The 5-foot-8 wide receiver had a massive game, catching two touchdown passes and breaking a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Sanders had nine catches for 92 yards and accounted for three of the Gamecocks’ four touchdowns.

Stat of the game: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson finished his four-year career with 4,495 rushing yards, setting an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He passed former West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who rushed for 4,480 yards. The two quarterbacks have always been linked because of the coach who recruited them both, Rich Rodriguez.

Turning point: With 8:15 left in the game, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney broke through the Michigan rush and hit Vincent Smith as he took the handoff, crushing Smith, sending his helmet flying and causing a fumble that Clowney recovered. On the next play, Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Sanders that gave South Carolina a 27-22 lead.

Record performance: Jeremy Gallon had a career-high nine catches for 145 yards to go along with his two touchdowns. He was the only Michigan receiver with more than 27 yards and consistently made big plays and grabs. His first touchdown came in the back corner of the end zone and the second one, which gave the Wolverines a late lead, came on a slant in which he beat his defender inside.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan put the finishing touches on a 45-0 blowout of Illinois, the Wolverines' first shutout since playing Minnesota last season.

Not a lot went right for Illinois, including losing quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for the game due to injury in the second quarter, while the Wolverines continued to improve defensively for the third straight game.

It was over when: Denard Robinson returned to the game from injury in the second quarter. Robinson was briefly knocked from the game, but he returned and led Michigan on a drive culminating in a 6-yard touchdown run to give the Wolverines a 17-0 lead. Illinois, which had lost Scheelhaase, never threatened after that.

Game ball goes to: Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan. The redshirt sophomore tied a career high with 11 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He also pressure Illinois’ quarterbacks all day and was a constant presence everywhere for the Wolverines defense.

Stat of the game: 11.6 yards per carry. That was all it took for Robinson on Saturday. He scored two rushing touchdowns to tie Mike Hart for third on Michigan’s career rushing touchdown ledger with 41.

Record performance: Again from Robinson, who passed the 10,000-yard barrier for yards gained with his 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Halfway through his senior season, Robinson has 10,065 career yards. He was the eighth player in Big Ten history to pass the 10,000-yard mark.

What it means: In a mediocre season for the Big Ten, Illinois is proving to be one of the league’s worst teams. It still has not lost a game by fewer than 17 points. Michigan, meanwhile, continued to prove it might be the league’s second-best team after Ohio State, meaning the Wolverines could be the league’s best bowl-eligible team this season. Michigan’s defense has also held teams under 14 points in its past four games.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan was hoping for a strong rebound performance Saturday against Air Force.

It didn't quite get it. But the Wolverines did get a 31-25 victory in a game that came down to the final moments.

It was over when: Michigan redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan batted down a Connor Dietz pass with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the Wolverines the win. Air Force had been driving with a chance to win. Ryan also had a career-high 11 tackles.

Game ball goes to: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The Wolverines would have lost without him. He accounted for four touchdowns and 426 total yards of offense. He also was Michigan's sole running producer as starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had just 7 yards on eight carries.

Stat of the game: Michigan freshman tight end Devin Funchess had four catches for 106 yards, the first time a tight end has had 100-plus yards for the Wolverines since Sept. 13, 1997, when Jerame Tuman had five catches for 126 yards.

What we learned about Michigan: Michigan could have some major issues on defense. The Wolverines' defensive line struggled with being cut by Air Force's offensive line and then couldn't get around blocks when they weren't. The linebackers struggled to read the Air Force pitch correctly. The Falcons gashed their way to 290 yards rushing and left the Michigan front seven with questions for the second consecutive week. Robinson, though, played a lot better than he did against Alabama. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

Record performance: Robinson had the fourth 200-yard rushing game of his career. His two touchdown passes gave him 43 in his career, moving him past Steve Smith (42 touchdown passes) into fifth in school history.
It has not been a friendly half for Michigan. Pretty much everything that the Wolverines were concerned about entering their season-opener against No. 2 Alabama came true. The offensive line struggled. The defensive line was gashed. Denard Robinson struggled with his accuracy.

Here's a breakdown of what happened.

Stat of the half: Michigan took its best weapon on offense, Denard Robinson, and neutralized him. Robinson, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, ran twice in the first half, gaining nine yards. The Wolverines, as much as Alabama, turned Robinson into a pocket passer and that didn't go well as he was 5 of 16 for 99 yards and two interceptions.

Player of the half: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron might not have been perfect on the statsheet, but the junior made great reads when he threw the ball and completely sold the playaction fake well for the Crimson Tide which led to two touchdowns.

What’s working for Michigan: About the only positive for Michigan in the first half was the play of freshman kick returner Dennis Norfleet, who showed good instincts and speed. However, even when he got the Wolverines good field position, it was negated by a penalty.

What’s NOT working for Michigan: Everything on offense and defense. A combination of Alabama and the playcalling of offensive coordinator Al Borges turned Robinson into a pocket passer, neutralizing his best skill -- running the ball. The Michigan defensive front was gashed by the Alabama offensive line and the Crimson Tide's running backs.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Some quick thoughts after No. 25 Michigan's 70-61 win over Illinois -- the Wolverines' 15th straight win at home.

How the game was won: By Michigan getting a little bit of help from everyone. The Wolverines had their usual complement of seven scorers in the stat sheet, but more than other games this one felt like it had a little bit of every rotation player helping out in some ways. Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. regained his shooting stroke in the first half, freshman guard Trey Burke continued his strong play, and role players such as Evan Smotrycz and Matt Vogrich had bigger-than-anticipated performances.

Player of the game: Smotrycz. He didn't have much of an impact in the second half, but Smotrycz, who had been struggling for much of the Big Ten season, had his best half in a while in the first half. He scored 12 of his 13 points in the first half and played with more confidence than he has had in a while. It was only the third time in Big Ten play Smotrycz has scored in double figures.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Some quick thoughts following No. 22 Michigan's 68-56 win over No. 20 Indiana on Wednesday night.

Turning point: Tim Hardaway Jr. drove the lane and missed a layup with a little over two-and-a-half minutes left. Then Jordan Morgan grabbed an offensive rebound. Good ball movement led to an open Stu Douglass 3-pointer from the left wing, which he made with 1:40 left to give Michigan a 58-50 lead. It kept Indiana from completing the comeback.

Stat of the game: Michigan had a 20-point lead with 7:12 left in the first half, up 28-8 after an and-one conversion from Morgan. From there, though, the Wolverines struggled. They watched their lead dwindle to two, 52-50, with 3:20 left.

Player of the game: Michigan guard Zack Novak. His stat line was average -- 13 points, five rebounds, two assists -- but the Wolverines' senior captain was very good on help-side defense on Cody Zeller and as usual did the little things to help Michigan. On a night where things were pretty balanced, his leadership put him over the top. IU guard Jordan Hulls was a close second, though, as he kept the Hoosiers in the game with 18 points.

Second guessing: Indiana coach Tom Crean might want to look at why he didn't use any timeouts early to try and quiet Michigan, which jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first 13 minutes. There seemed to be multiple spots for a run-squashing timeout, and he just didn't call one. Considering Indiana almost came back from the 20-point deficit, one might wonder what would have happened if he tried to stop the run sooner.

What Michigan learned, What Indiana learned: Michigan -- That it can hang around without Trey Burke. Indiana took Burke out of the game, essentially holding him scoreless for 30 minutes after he had 10 of his 18 points in the first five minutes of the game. The Wolverines were outscored in that timeframe but were able to hold on until he got it going again in the final five minutes. Indiana -- The road is still not a friendly place for the Hoosiers, who have now lost four straight away from Assembly Hall. They also saw what can happen when Cody Zeller is double-teamed successfully. Michigan used a similar double-team to what it did on Jared Sullinger on Saturday and the results were similar. Zeller had 11 points and 12 rebounds, but he was quiet for most of the night.

Record performance: Michigan continued its homecourt win streak, now up to 14 games and tied for 13th in the country with Arkansas, Michigan State and St. Mary's. The Spartans can move back ahead of the Wolverines on Sunday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.


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