Michigan 42, Iowa 17

Michigan 42, Iowa 17

November 18, 2012
Devin Gardner was responsible for 6 touchdowns on Saturday (image via AnnArbor.com)

Devin Gardner is awesome.  Prior to the game, I didn’t realize how terrible Iowa’s secondary is.  In the game preview, I predicted that Gardner would play his worst game as a quarterback.  That wasn’t close to being true.  The Hawkeyes blew coverages repeatedly, and Gardner completed 18/23 passes for 314 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception; he also ran 9 times for 37 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He makes some questionable passes at times, and frankly, he has been lucky several times.  Both Northwestern and Iowa have had defensive backs misjudge passes that have allowed for long completions to receivers Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree; better defensive backs pick off or knock down some of these passes, but I’ll take it.

That Fitzgerald Toussaint injury hurts.  I didn’t see it on the initial play, but the replay was nasty.  Toussaint is obviously done for the year and I would be surprised if he returns in time for spring ball.  There were rumors that he was considering leaving for the NFL after this season, but combined with his mediocre performance thus far, that seems like it won’t be an option.  Hopefully he can return healthy next year, get back to his 2011 form, and raise his draft stock for 2014.  In the meantime, that hurts the Wolverines for the Ohio State game and beyond, because he was improving over the past couple weeks and the backup running backs are just so-so.

I do not like the usage of Denard Robinson.  Michigan could have won this game without playing Denard Robinson.  He’s obviously not fully healthy, and he tweaked his elbow injury in the second quarter.  The coaches obviously don’t trust him to throw the ball, and tweaking the injury probably means he won’t be able to throw against Ohio State, either.  Yes, it was fun to watch and it gives Ohio State some other formations and plays for which to prepare, but it also potentially cost the team Robinson’s throwing ability, however mediocre.  I don’t understand the need to unleash those plays and formations on Iowa if Michigan could have surprised the Buckeyes with those things next week.

James Ross, welcome to the Big Ten.  Ross got his first career start at WILL in place of Desmond Morgan, and he did a pretty good job.  There were a couple issues in pass coverage and he got pushed around when offensive linemen were able to latch onto him, but the kid led the team with 12 tackles  That’s a pretty good beginning, though he has played plenty throughout the year.  My expectation for next year is that Morgan will move to MIKE to make room for Ross to play WILL full-time.

Cover the tight end!  Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg didn’t really try the outside, but he did repeatedly attack the middle of the field by hitting tight ends.  I don’t blame him for attacking the middle of the field due to Ross’s inexperience, but Iowa has decent receivers and Michigan has so-so cornerbacks.  Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz had 8 catches for 99 yards, and Coble Krieger had 3 catches for 24 yards and 1 touchdown.  It was a good day for those guys, but it’s tough to keep up a good scoring pace by dinking and dunking your way down the field with 5-yard passes to the tight ends.  Kevonte Martin-Manley was the only Iowa wideout to catch a pass, and he finished with 2 receptions for 7 yards.

Josh Furman isn’t a safety.  Let me mention once again how out of place Furman is at safety.  Furman is a good special teams player, but playing safety just isn’t his thing.  He entered the game late and failed to make a couple plays that were right there.  When he’s not attacking downhill, he’s lost.  The kid played rush linebacker in high school, and you just can’t move guys back in a defense and expect them to be successful.  You can move a kid from corner to safety or safety to linebacker or linebacker to defensive end or defensive end to defensive tackle, but you can’t go the other way.  If he can hold some additional weight, the coaches ought to bulk him up to play SAM.

Good for the seniors.  Twenty-three seniors played their final game at Michigan Stadium yesterday, and they were undefeated at home over the past two seasons.  It’s a pretty amazing turnaround, because these fifth-year guys were the first Rich Rodriguez class from 2008 that saw Michigan lose on their home turf to Toledo.  A bunch of guys got in the stat book in their final home game, including Steve Wilson and Floyd Simmons.  Jack Kennedy took the final snap.  And Vincent Smith caught a screen pass for a touchdown for old time’s sake.  Those who stay will be . . . undefeated at home.


  1. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    It was Denard's last game at home. They had to play him, and I'm glad they did. And given Fitz's injury, Denard will almost certainly get the start at RB next week against OSU. So getting practice yesterday against a lesser opponent helps.

    As for Gardner, he once again looked great. Which makes me all the more disappointed that the coaches didn't have him ready to go against Nebraska. We should be playing for a berth in the Big Ten title game.

  2. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    I don't have a problem with using Denard against Iowa, he's meant so much around here, I believe he deserves a great last home game.

    Besides, in addition to giving the Buckeyes some new stuff to prep for, they now have to sit and think about what else Big Al could be scheming that they haven't seen.

    Denard at tailback here and there opens up a whole new world of issues for an opposing DC. Then ….. you still gotta wonder, what if he really can grip the ball and throw it? If I'm Withers and Fickell, I'm not sleeping well this week.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      I'd rather have Withers and Fickell sleeping well…and then get surprised on Saturday.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 8:02 PM

      The other thing is that sometimes you want to see how the guys run these new plays in a game-time situation. You can't simulate being in front of 100,000 people.

  3. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    If forgot to mention … all that stuff you kept hearing last year about James Ross' recognition and reactions being just so much better than everybody else's sure has turned out to be true.

    On the third down play last week late where Northwestern converted by inches, he bent around a pile of linemen to get himself square into the hole and made just a helluva play for a linebacker at any level. That one will stand out in my mind for a good long time.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      I'm a little nervous about Ross in coverage after yesterday, though. He had a tough time covering the TE.

  4. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Unfortunately, Furman is not our only problem at safety, which is a position of significant concern going into next year. Kovacs is our only decent player at the position (at which we weren't all that strong this year anyway), but what's left for 2013? Gordon has been very average as a playmaker, and Robinson, Furman and Wilson have all been unimpressive, to say the least. Unlike at linebacker, where Ross and Bolden have shown a lot, I wouldn't feel happy turning any of those guys loose as a starter, and we only have one safety in next year's class who might fit in to the rotation, plus a couple of low rated guys who weren't even good enough to play this year at a weak position.

    We need to double down on landing McCray, and hope that either he or Thomas is a prodigy. Otherwise, that will continue to be a real weakness for us.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      On edit, that's McQuay…too early for a long post…

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      I'm not really sure where you're getting all this negativity.

      Gordon will never be a superstar, but he's a solid tackler, usually in good position, and is tied for first on the team in interceptions (he almost had another one yesterday).

      Robinson is more of a strong safety (and he has freakin' Kovacs in front of him) and Wilson is a true freshman who has seen a tiny bit of meaningful time ONLY matched up against Tyler Eifert, which is just dumb. It's waaaaay too early to make judgments.

      I doubt McQuay is coming to Michigan, but Thomas looks like the real deal. Relax. Some of those guys have another year to develop.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      I think you are underrating how good Gordon has been. He hasn't had to do nearly as much as last year, but he has been a tackling machine and hasn't been caught out of position often. He also will occasionally make "wow" plays like his interception against EMU or any of the plays where he has caused or recovered fumbles. On a different note, safety is a difficult and very much mentally tasking position, so don't be surprised when any of the players that you think aren't worth spring up and become very good. I believe being THE guy will give any of these guys the extra motivation that makes them leap forward in ability.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      I disagree. Obviously it will be tough to replace Kovacs, but Gordon has been a solid starter for two seasons now. And Wilson and Robinson both look like they have some potential. Robinson looks like a good fit for more of an in the box safety role. Throw Dymonte Thomas in for some more competition and I think we will have an average to above average pair of safeties next year with good potential for the couple seasons after that. Not as good as this year, but definitely serviceable in the Big Ten.


    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      I think you mean McQuay..also I don't think Wilson has been that unimpressive. He has the most range. He needs to be better in run support (though Gordon can focus on that next year) and needs to bulk up, but he has the tools to play free safety (cannot say the same for Furman)

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 6:50 PM

      Thomas Gordon was a huge playmaker last year between interceptions and fumble recoveries. He hasn't made a ton of plays this year, but the potential is there. Teams haven't really tested him down the field much – they've been too busy attacking Kovacs, Floyd, and Taylor. I think the safety positions will be fine next year.

    • Comments: 21383
      Painter Smurf
      Nov 18, 2012 at 7:49 PM

      I think it's a decent situation next year. Thomas Gordon is not great, but he is pretty good and should be plenty savvy as a 3rd year starter next season. Another bonus is that he could play either safety position. So if a young guy is really starting to stand out at either the SS or FS spot, they can plug Gordon in at the other spot and do OK. Top to bottom, the 2013 defense is shaping up to be the deepest in a long time – there's a lot to be optimistic about.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      Sorry, not being negative, just realistic. I think the standards of Michigan fans have gotten very low with regard to safety play, as a result of having gone so long without really good safeties on the roster. In the last twenty years, how many all-conference or all-American caliber safeties, guys who were high NFL picks, have we had? Shazor?

      Kovacs? Solid player, makes his share of plays but misses his share too. Great guy, great story, but sorry…he is not by any stretch of the imagination "freakin'" Gordon? Decent, but nothing special. Not the kind of FS you're going to build an elite defense around. Robinson is finishing his third year on the field, and he's basically done nothing, even in a backup role. Wilson and Furman may still develop, but especially in Furman's case, given how highly touted he was coming in, after two years playing, you'd think he'd have shown more by now.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:21 AM


      If you think we're going to either A) have an elite defense in the next few years or B) build the defense around a free safety, you're grievously mistaken. If/when we field an elite defense, it will begin and end with the defensive line and perhaps a linebacker. That's how this staff operates.

      You don't need All-American safeties to have a good defense. Just look at last year. Your complaint seems to be "aw shucks, we don't have prime NFL talent at safety." Big deal. Most teams don't. We'll be fine.

    • Comments: 21383
      Painter Smurf
      Nov 19, 2012 at 2:56 AM

      Don't think anyone disagrees that safety has not been UM's strength the last couple decades. Just think it's an odd time to complain about it. They have been pretty solid the last two seasons under Mattison. I would much rather have a consistent, overachiever like Kovacs at the position than a lot of the more physically gifted players who have NFL potential but make more mistakes in the college game (June, Mundy, Brown, Shazor, etc.). In the NFL, there is Ed Reed and Troy Palamalu. Most of the other guys are interchangeable. Bo made his living on defense of of overachievers.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Why would I not hope that we'll have an elite defense in the next few years? Notre Dame went from pure crap on defense two or three years ago to a championship-level defense this year. Heck, 5 years ago they were so bad they were comical, and now they're sitting at number 1.

      With the offenses that today's top teams put out there, any weakness is going to be exploited. We were fortunate this year in having not played any particularly good passing teams, but if we want to field a championship team, our pass defense will have to be significantly better, everywhere.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      I think our defense can be elite next year. I think Gordon is, and will be, an above-average starter and I think Wilson next year, as a second year player (who was also an EE), will be pretty good too. Without Countess, Taylor, and Avery at CB our secondary will be very good.

      Our DL will be very good too with Washington, Pipkins, Black, plus some freshman inside. Clark, Ojemudia, Beyer, Heitzman and freshman at DE/RLB.

      But what will make our D elite is the LB trio of Ross, Morgan, and Ryan plus quality depth from Gordon and Bolden.

      I don't really see a flaw on next years defense unless Wilson/Robinson fail to develop and no one steps up at WDE. I'd be pretty surprised if that happened, given how good this coaching staff is.

  5. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    This might sound a little out there, but I have a feeling Denard can throw. Not 100% but enough. Come fourth quarter of the OSU game in a close game. Borges will call a play for Denard to throw to someone wide open for a game winning TD.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 5:01 PM

      I'll go one step further … even if Denard is 100% for OSU, Borges should *still* have Gardner at QB and Denard in the backfield. Denard at QB with Gardner at WR is not as potent as the reverse.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      I agree. Honestly, Gardner is the best passer on the team even if Denard is healthy. Having both guys in the backfield (which could still allow Denard to throw a pass or two) probably gives us our best chance of winning. I'd also love to see us send Denard deep on a wheel route.

  6. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    For those Wildcat formations to be able to work, Denard needs to be able to throw. He doesn't need to be 100%, but he has to at least be able to toss the ball to a wide open receiver so that Ohio State has to cover the pass.

  7. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    I wasn't a big fan of the Denard usage, either. Sure, get him out there since it's his last game, but don't show so much of your hand. Save all the great stuff for Ohio State next week.

    Of course, we may find out next week that this is exactly what Borges has done.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 18, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      I don't think it hurt to let OSU see that….gives them a lot more to worry about in preparing for us, and let us try some things out against a weaker opponent. I thought they used Denard a little too deep into the game, though..there was zero need to have him in there once were up 42-10.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      It's not like these are the only plays Borges can run. I don't think Michigan showed them too much at all. OSU has a LOT to think about, but they still don't know what is coming. They already have to prepare for PA-heavy pro-style offense with Devin, Devin's scrambling, toss-back screens, bubble screens, the zone-read, and Denard at QB. Now they also have to prepare for Denard jet-sweeps and standard Denard-shotgun run stuff. If they don't prepare for Denard passes also, they take a big risk.

      Borges has switched approach from game to game regularly. He is generally reactive as a strategist and will see Iowa and OSU as different challenges. Would anyone be surprised if a huge chunk of the Iowa stuff wasn't deployed OSU?

  8. Comments: 21383
    Nov 18, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    Any thoughts on why nobody ever considered moving Furman to running back? Isn't that where other programs were recruiting him for? It has never even been discussed. It's not like we couldn't have used him there the past few years.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      Furman was being recruited for offense and defense by different schools. I don't think RB would have been a bad idea, but I also think there's a bit of a numbers/experience shortage at safety. With Clark, Gant, and Wilson all coming in as true freshmen, the only safeties were the starters (Kovacs, Gordon) and a junior Marvin Robinson. I don't think you can really afford to move a guy like Furman in that situation. Perhaps he could switch positions for 2013, because there's a little more depth (only Kovacs graduates), but changing positions as a redshirt junior might not be that productive, either.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      Most schools wanted Furman for Defense, IIRC.

  9. Comments: 21383
    Nov 19, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    A new way for Thunder to criticize Denard — I thought they were all used up!

    His deployment was great. Perfect really. It lets Denard do what he does best, it helps fill and injury void, and it forces OSU to spend time preparing for something that may or may not be relevant. At the very least they'll spend less time trying to figure out what Gardner can't do.

    I don't buy that Denard's ability was compromised by choosing to play him. I think he was going to be limited for OSU either way. I'd guess he can throw still, but not consistently or effectively (just like always, I'm sure someone is thinking). Not using him as a passer against Iowa just contributes to the uncertainty.

    Given that our starting QB (probably) can't throw and our starting RB can't play and our interior OL still can't run-block…I think we're in a relatively decent position.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      How did I criticize Denard?

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 3:34 PM

      You mean in this post, or the many other previews and recaps where you've complained about his performance?

      I suppose you mean this one, in which you're critical of his usage. That may not be a critique of Denard directly, but it's indicative of an overall negativity toward him. The guy suits up for his last home game at a new position, does pretty dang well, and the team wins handily. Why complain at all?

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 3:38 PM

      I mean in this post. It's not indicative of any kind of overall negativity toward Denard. It's directed at Hoke/Borges. They're the guys who decided to put him on the field. He tweaked his elbow again, and who knows how much better he'll feel in a week? We would have won this game whether he played or not.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 3:48 PM

      I strongly believe that the Denard injury opened the door for Borges to not just get Gardner behind center, but because of the typr of injury (throwing elbow) it has allowed the staff a way to make the move to Devin without "benching" Denard. There is no doubt in my mind that even if Denard is back to 100% that Borges won't be kicking and screaming keep Gardner under center. Robinson is an electric runner, keep him at tailback. I don't care that he ran a few zone-reads because even without much of a threat as a passer, Michigan still has more blockers than defenders and Denard is still the guy with the ball in his hands.

      I see your point about "surprising" OSU, but this was Senior Day and once the doctors gave the staff the thumbs up on Denard there was no way he wasn't going to get meaningful action. And BTW, Denard did combine to put up nearly 125 yards still. NONE of our other running backs have done that this year. Keep Denard at RB.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      I'm not questioning Denard's production at all. He did most things flawlessly, and he certainly produced some big plays. I just don't like the idea of getting him hurt before what is potentially the biggest game of the year. If he can't throw, we're a Devin Gardner injury away from having to re-insert Russell Bellomy at quarterback…and that won't end well.

    • Comments: 21383
      Nov 19, 2012 at 8:02 PM

      I don't buy your assertion that the Iowa game caused him any harm for OSU. I'd rather he got a few reps in at a non-critical situation than come in cold against OSU.

      Yeah, we could have beaten Iowa without him, but we wouldn't have OSU expending resources to prepare for Denard Robinson, Running Back or the handoff option toss or…

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