If you’re a Michigan fan, you probably didn’t have a very enjoyable time on Saturday. The Wolverines’ struggles continued as they lost to Nebraska 17-13. Michigan (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) was held to negative yardage on the ground for the second straight week against Nebraska (7-2, 4-1).
What went wrong
Well, just about everything. Michigan’s primary problem all year has been its inability to block the run and to protect its quarterback. Last week against Michigan State, Devin Gardner was sacked seven times and the team rushed for negative 48 yards. You would think that would motivate a team to play a lot better against a defense that is nowhere near as good as the Spartans.
That wasn’t the case. The Nebraska defense is among the worst in the nation against the run, allowing over 200 yards in all but one of its games. On Saturday, they held Michigan to negative 21 yards on 36 carries. Derrick Green was the team’s leading rusher, going for 11 yards on eight carries. Fitz Toussaint struggled to find running room again, running for six yards on nine carries. Gardner was sacked seven times for the second straight week.
Throughout Michigan’s struggles to run the ball effectively, offensive coordinator Al Borges has been insistent on running the ball over and over, hoping something changes. That has not worked out well for the team so far this year. At one point late in the game, boos rang out throughout The Big House because of the play-calling. Something needs to change here.
The defense didn’t play all that bad. They held the Nebraska offense to 273 yards, but that’s a problem when your offense only manages 175. They had trouble containing Huskers running back Ameer Abdullah, who ran for 105 yards and a touchdown.
The notable mistakes on defense turned out to be huge. A couple long third down conversions against the young defense and a blown assignment on an option run were the notable errors by the defense. Courtney Avery and Josh Furman started in place of Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson. Gordon was out with an injury and Wilson was replaced just to change things up.
The missed assignment on the option came on the game-winning drive, ending with just over two minutes left on the clock. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. ran out to his left and Frank Clark met him behind the line, but seemed to be questioning his decision to go for the running back or quarterback. Caught in between, Clark allowed Armstrong to get the ball to Abdullah, who scampered into the end zone, giving Nebraska a late 17-13 advantage.
What went right
Not a whole lot. Brendan Gibbons was 2/2 on field goals, hitting from 27 and 40 yards. Matt Wile racked up the punt yardage again, averaging 48.8 yards on six punts. His 69 yard punt that ended up inside the Nebraska five yard line was probably the highlight of Michigan’s Saturday.
Dennis Norfleet scooped and scored a muffed punt, but the touchdown didn’t count because you cannot advance muffed punts. Despite regaining possession on the muffed punt, Michigan would be held to a field goal. Michigan also recovered another fumble, which was forced by Cam Gordon.
Taco Charlton, the freshman defensive end got his first significant playing time on Saturday and played pretty well. He created some good pressure on Armstrong consistently throughout the game.
Devin Gardner finished 18 of 27 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown. He found Devin Funchess for a touchdown on Michigan’s opening drive in the second half to tie the game at 10 at the time. It was the Wolverines’ first touchdown in over 6 quarters, dating back to the Indiana game.
Funchess caught six passes for 66 yards. Jeremy Gallon caught five for 49 yards.
And that’s about all that went right.
It was not a good day for Michigan. Their struggles are extremely concerning, especially considering its remaining schedule against teams that could potentially be better than Nebraska. This team needs to recover fast, or it could very well drop the last three games against Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State.
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