Michigan vs. Northwestern Awards

Michigan vs. Northwestern Awards

November 10, 2014

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Dennis Norfleet. Norfleet injured his shoulder against Indiana, and he did not appear in this game. It was no surprise when Michigan couldn’t find a big-play threat even once during the Northwestern game. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier tried an end around to Devin Funchess – which was an utter failure – and the Wolverines have no speed on the outside. Add that to the gimpy Devin Gardner and a gimpy De’Veon Smith, and things look bleak for big plays. Norfleet hasn’t been able to make huge plays, but he does have the ability to make 10-20 yard gains on the occasional run or reception. Hopefully he can get healthy by the next game in two weeks.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Devin Funchess as the go-to receiver. The more reliable target this year has been Amara Darboh. Darboh is pretty slow and runs poor routes at times, but he makes both the easy and the tough catches. Funchess hasn’t consistently made either. Michigan needs to spread the ball around, but when they need  a play to be made, I think Darboh has to be the guy.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . James Ross III. Ross has been playing better than the third corner. Against some packages, I guess it’s necessary to put a fifth defensive back in the game, but you have to put your best eleven guys out there on defense. That actually probably would involve removing the free safety, but we’ve been over that before. Anytime Delonte Hollowell is out there on defense, I’d rather have Ross in the game.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Delonte Hollowell. As I mentioned in the game recap, it seems like opposing coordinators and quarterbacks are aware of his presence. If they watch game tape from earlier in the season, he’s the guy they should realize they can pick on. He hasn’t played a great deal on defense, but he has allowed at least three touchdowns this season on out routes near the left sideline (against Notre Dame, Utah, and now Northwestern). The kid is a decent special teams contributor, but he’s a liability in coverage.

Play of the game . . . Matt Godin’s interception on Frank Clark’s tip. Late in the second quarter, Michigan ran a zone blitz that dropped defensive end Brennen Beyer into a short zone. On a three-man rush, defensive end Frank Clark bulled Northwestern offensive tackle Jason Konopka backward, getting a hand up to knock down a Trevor Siemian pass attempt. The ball was knocked up in the air, and defensive tackle Godin reeled it in as he was falling backward to the ground. There are several options – the thwarted two-point conversion, Jake Ryan’s interception, several of the 6 Michigan sacks, etc. – but I’ll give it to Godin (and Clark) because it involved multiple players.

MVP of the game . . . tie between Jake Ryan and Frank Clark. Both had stellar games, particularly in the first half. Ryan finished with 11 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, 1 interception (returned for 2 yards), and 1 other pass breakup. Clark had 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 3 batted balls, one of which was intercepted; he also sniffed out a reverse and made a very nice tackle in the backfield. This game was won by the defense, and those two really stood out.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Agreed with all. Hollowell's bad-ness reminds me of that skinny guy who could only do 5 reps of bench press (JT Floyd). I just hope this clown show to end, though I am sure Urban smacking us by the score of 60-3 will do the job.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Depending on where OSU stands in the rankings prior to that game, they may have incentive to slap us hard in the hope of squeaking into the 4th spot. 60-3 not out of the question.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      Exactly. OSU is going to try really hard to earn brownie points to get into the top 4. Urban will show no mercy on this badly coached team.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    "This game was won by the defense"

    Pretty much by necessity. I caught the first half of the game, then had other obligations. The box score yields some grim details: Michigan 1 for 12 on 3rd down, 11 for 24 passing, 256 total yards. Still, by contrast, NW was 10 for 21 on 3rd down, out-gained us in total yards, and had a decent (not great) day passing. Their rushing was non-existent. Just based on the numbers, the score could have easily been the other way — NW 10, Michigan 9.

    The defense is going to be tested by Ohio State.

    (To BlastBeat88 … you call this being "contrarian" … I call it being a clear-eyed realist.)

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Yeah, the defense crumbled giving up those two late drives which put the game in jeopardy. They have yet, I repeat, they have yet to throw a complete game shutout. I thought they were going to do it Sat but in the end, just another tease.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 11:57 PM

      Uh…how is this being contrarian?

  3. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    I actually disagree. I want to see more of Funchess. He needs to stop dropping the damn ball. If he doesn't he has to stick around Michigan for another year and fix it, because the NFL doesn't like TEs who can't block OR catch. If He does, we have a chance at making a bowl. He's our most dangerous offensive player, and Darboh, while a nice looking possession guy, is just not putting feat into anyone.

    LTLOTG: Drake Johnson. One thing our RBs have done an excellent job of this year is not fumbling. Johnson's blocking was pretty bad too, or at least I noticed a few noticably weak efforts. Kind of surprising for a lightly recruited guy from Pioneer to be so bad at this.

    Agree on the defense. Ross has looked solid and we are deep at linebacker. Meanwhile Countess has been a bit inconsistent. It seems like the coaches have figured this out mostly.

    MVP of the game: Northwestern's punt returner

  4. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    On the Funchess reverses…why do the coaches keep running these? I know he might be our 'fastest' WR but it's a straightline kind of speed, not an the elusiveness you want from a ball-carrier. Furthermore, he our biggest/best receiving threat – the guy the safety has to keep an eye on. He's literally the LAST guy that should be getting the ball on reverses. This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder what are coaches are thinking when it comes to offensive personnel and play-calling.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Well, it's kind of sad, but these trick plays only work when defenses are overreacting to something else. It's the same reason that MSU didn't fall for the flea-flicker. If you can't establish the run, then the safeties/corners won't come up to stop it. In this case, we're unable to run, so defenses aren't going to fast-flow over the top to try to stop De'Veon Smith or Drake Johnson (whoever it was); they know that the guys on that side of the defense will almost certainly be able to stop the play for little or no gain. It's an effort to get the ball in Funchess's hands, but they need to get better at their base stuff before these things will work.

      Reverses/end arounds used to work for Michigan when they had Hart, Perry, etc. at running back. Right now we've got De'Veon Smith and Drake Johnson behind a pretty bad offensive line.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      Good points and I think it's definitely part of the bigger problem, but my gripe is less about the fact that they are doing it then how they are doing it. If you're going to run a reverse, why run it with Funchess?

      Yeah, you want to "get the ball in his hands", but this isn't the way to do it. You don't run reverses with Calvin Johnson, you run them with the other guy who defenses aren't coached to keep their eyes all on.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      I don't know, Lanknows – I think you're a little off on your assumption(s). You can certainly run reverses with your star receivers. David Terrell had 8 career carries for 108 yards. Charles Woodson had 11 carries for 173 yards. Mario Manningham had 31 carries for 176 yards. These are all star wide receivers who got the ball on reverses, end arounds, etc. Those were not Wildcat, direct-snap types of guys.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      Correction: I guess I shouldn't call Charles Woodson a star wide receiver, but he's a star athlete that the defenses certainly would have been paying attention to when he came in the game on offense.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:38 PM

      Being a star is part of it, but moreso it's about being a good YAC guy/ball-carrier. I don't think Funchess is any more impressive with the ball in his hands than the other options. Woodson was (though, like you said Streets was the top WR), so that made sense – even if the D was eyeing him.

      Terrell is better example, but he did have Walker who was viewed as only being a hair behind Terrell as both a recruit and a college player. Both were NFL receivers. That's a situation where Terrell is a better option than Walker because he's a better YAC guy.

      In general, the bigger guys are less elusive. If your best WR is Steve Smith – great, give him the ball on a run. If it's AJ Green or Jimmy Graham, you're probably better off giving it to someone else most of the time. Ron Bellomy can take a reverse and do about as well as Terrell. The play works if you fool people, and putting your best WR somewhere else helps that a little bit. Individual excellence as a ball-carrier is secondary and not necessarily reflected by who has the best hands, timing, catching-radius and route-running skills. And of course straight-line speed isn't the same thing as elusiveness with the ball. WR skills are only loosely related to reverse-running skills.

      The Lions gave a lot more reverses to Nate Burleson over the years than Calvin Johnson – I think that was the right idea. To put it in the context of another Michigan example – if you have Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston, you don't need to be running reverses with Braylon.

      I'm not saying NEVER do it. It's good to keep defenses on their toes and worried about a lot of things. But, Funchess shouldn't be the main recipient of reverses (and, to be fair, I think Norfleet has had more). I'm nitpicking, but I think Funchess is getting too much of these. It's just not a great way to get the ball in his hands in the big picture.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    Funchess has played his way into the 5th or 6th round. Nobody will burn a high draft choice on a certified 'dropper'. In fact, he should return for his senior year, the way he is going, he'll need that Mich degree sooner rather than later.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:49 PM

      I don't think the NFL is that sensitive to game results over a small sample. If he was ever a 1st round pick (an argument I would dispute) his dropsies would only cause him to slip a few rounds IMO.

      The bigger issue, I think, is that he still being viewed as a TE by the NFL, yet he still is an atrocious blocker. He's not a WOW wide receiver, he's a possession guy at the NFL level. I see nothing about him (other than prototypical size and solid speed to go with it) that says 1st round pick. He's not Eric Ebron or Mike Evans and he's certainly not a blazing track-speed guy. So either he's a TE exploiting matchups or he's a possession receiver. He needs to demonstrate good hands or blocking, if not both.

      I agree he should come back, even if he's a 3rd or 4th rounder.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Overall I agree with the awards list. I am not sure I wouldn't share the LSLOTGOO with Gardner. I know there doesn't seem to be a more viable option, but if we are going there with Funchess we can make a compelling case with Gardner as well. Doesn't mean that both of them shouldn't be on the field, but neither of them has been spectacular this game or this season.

    I do have a question though….does the poor performance from the secondary get attributed to the players or the coaching? I know that Manning and Mallory coach the DB's, but does Manning coaching a position he isn't used to coaching hurt them? Just curious because there seem to be quite of few guys back there who keep making the same mistakes over and over.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:09 PM

      I do think that the coaching seems to be an issue there, particularly the Mallory/Manning situation. The corners were pretty solid last year, with the exception of some biffs (Raymon Taylor against Indiana, Channing Stribling against Penn State, etc.). I like what the linebackers are doing, so I'm glad Mattison is there, but Manning is going through some growing pains with the corners. Meanwhile, Mallory's guys aren't doing great, but I don't think he has a lot to work with.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:44 PM

      On QB – I've been a Morris critic since his recruitment and this season is pretty much a sunk cost. It would help the team next year a bit if he got to play. That said, as bad as Gardner has been he doesn't deserve to be benched. The guy has been a warrior for Michigan, stuck through the coaching change, and has dealt with tons of fan hostility. He his earned his chance to have a career-redeeming victory over OSU. He almost got it last year.

      If the OSU game gets out of hand early, bring on Morris, but Gardner deserves his shot.

      On the secondary – I think the scheme change is a bigger issue than the coaching shuffle. We've seen Countess play well, but he's clearly not doing as well now. Is that coaching or the technique/scheme? Michigan might have picked a bad year to move people around, or maybe they thought Peppers would would be doing more.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 8:52 PM


      I wasn't suggesting that Gardner gets the bench or doesn't deserve the start. I was just mentioning that his performance should be right up there with Funchess' when you are talking about not doing what they should be. You genuinely cannot be serious that he has earned the right to redeem himself against OSU? With the exception of a few players who have played well this season there is nobody who has earned anything on the field. I am not saying he doesn't get the start, but earning it based on his performance on the field is a stretch. If there was a capable backup right now Gardner would be holding the clipboard after throwing 13 INT's so far this season.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 11, 2014 at 5:17 AM


      Well, I suppose your point about a backup is true, but I think Gardner deserves better. Not for his performance this year, which has been awful, but for his resilience and toughness.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 11, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      @ Lank

      I can agree with you on the toughness and resilience. Unfortunately there are a lot of kids in the same boat on this team. Even those who have been used a punching bags on the scout team have been through a lot.

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 11, 2014 at 4:14 PM


      A key difference is that Gardner was a 5-star recruit who had plenty of options. None of those guys battled through the OSU game with a broken foot and hobbled around for half a season. I saw Gardner in the tunnel before the Nebraska and the guy was wincing just walking around (hid it on the field though.) I'm sure students on campus saw much of the same.

      The fact is he would have been better off transferring the day Hoke was announced as coach, but he stuck through it.

      That's without getting into all the well publicized fan-abuse, racism, and general negativity. Jon Navarre got it pretty good, but nothing compared to Gardner. Half our fanbase wanted Shane Morris to start and our coaches gave him that slap in the face. Maybe he deserved it for some reason, IDK, but he certainly doesn't deserve another.

      A lot of kids make sacrifices, Gardner's are above and beyond.

      He has devolved into not being a very good quarterback, but I'll always remember him with a level of respect that is up there with Kovacs, Molk, Avant, Graham, Denard, etc.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I have attended the open Practices and Damario Jones seems to be the fastest WR and best WR but he doesn't seem to be the favorite maybe he needs to kiss up more

    Must be another Drake Johnson issue or example

  8. Comments: 21381
    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    They have so much talent maybe the Coaches are over their heads

    • Comments: 21381
      Nov 10, 2014 at 11:22 PM

      Hoke is. Can't picture Mattison being over his head as DC. Or Nussmeier as OC after having that at Alabama. But it seems Hoke is lost and the rest of the team is following him.

  9. Comments: 21381
    Nov 11, 2014 at 12:30 AM

    Or maybe it could stem from the fact that he was involved to some degree with the whole C'sonte York trouble this summer. This would probably be enough to land him in the doghouse if he too had been drinking and wasn't charged. There is more to coaching than X's & O's and most of these kids won't play in the NFL. So it becomes the job of the coach to try to turn kids into productive young men before they leave.

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