Get to Know: Michigan

It’s hard to say which low point most epitomizes Michigan’s season. Was it the two tickets for two colas promotion that so angered fans who had ponied up a whole lot more than $3 for their seats?

Was it the Shane Morris concussion? Or the fact that seemingly everyone in the stadium…aside from the head coach, knew the quarterback was concussed? Maybe it was the 12:52 a.m. press release issued regarding the injury?

Maybe it was the petition calling for the ouster of former athletics director Dave Brandon? Or the rally on campus demanding the same?

Maybe it was the one-sided losses? Or the achingly close ones?

Maybe it was the school’s president taking shots at the one thing Michigan fans, despite the losses, still could take pride in: their team’s academic achievement?

Maybe it was the disgruntled former players? Maybe the defecting of potential future Wolverines?

To add insult to injury the last decommitment came at almost the same moment that Maryland was scoring the game-winning touchdown to practically ensure Michigan will not be heading to a bowl this season. (That is barring an upset against Ohio State, of course.)

The 23-16 loss to the Terps, who were playing without their best player Stefon Diggs, might actually be what best encapsulates the Wolverines rough season. There was so much about it that seemed to summarize what kind of year it’s been for the Maize and Blue.

Though one of the least penalized teams in the country, Michigan had a flag that cost them a punt return touchdown and another that kept an eventual Maryland scoring drive alive.

Devin Funchess, widely regarded as one of Michigan’s greatest threats in the passing game, had a critical drop.

Head coach Brady Hoke used two timeouts in a three-minute span of the third quarter. His decision-making was so suspect, that a reporter covering the game decided to include the “uh’s” in his transcription of Hoke’s eventual explanation for what happened.

And, naturally, it all happened on Michigan’s “Big House, Big Thanks” fan appreciation day. Big letdown, right?

It hasn’t been all bad news for the Wolverines. Most of their bright spots, however, have been on defense.

It has not been the offense led by quarterback Devin Gardner. Though, completing over 60 percent of his passes, Gardner has 14 picks to go with just 8 passing touchdowns. In fact, should he throw a TD pass against Ohio State, it will be his first since a November 1st win over Indiana. In addition, that game against the Hoosiers marked the only time this season Gardner has thrown for more than 200 yards.

It was also a home game for UM. Actually, Gardner has not thrown a touchdown pass on the road this entire season. At the same time, he has been intercepted 8 times in those away games, and his completion percentage dips from 65.7 percent in Ann Arbor to 53.7 percent when he has to venture elsewhere.

As a result, Gardner will often try to run the ball, but he’s only averaging 2.8 yards a carry.

Michigan’s leading rusher is De’Veon Smith, a sophomore out of Warren, Ohio, whose workload picked up after a season-ending injury to Derrick Green. Green, despite missing the past five games, is still the team’s second-leading rusher in terms of yards.

Funchess, as previously mentioned, is Michigan’s main pass-catching threat. He’s 6’5″ and a converted tight end. Over 50 percent of the team’s receptions have gone to either Funchess or 6’2″ sophomore Amara Darboh.

Jake Butt is the team’s tight end, which I tell you, because he’s a Pickerington kid, whose name is Butt and he plays tight end, which might be the best thing ever.

Michigan’s offensive line has given up 21 sacks this season, which ranks them 54th nationally.

The Wolverines defense, on the other hand, is statistically one of the better ones in the country. Michigan is 9th nationally in rushing defense. That’s where they are ranked in total defense as well, while they are 21st in scoring defense. There are only 29 other teams who have been better at getting to the opposing quarterback.

It is notable that most of these achievements occurred with the help of defensive end Frank Clark, who had a team-leading 13.5 tackles for loss, but is no longer with the squad following his arrest on domestic abuse charges.

Still, Michigan hasn’t allowed a first half touchdown in their last three games, so even without Clark, they have managed to find something on D.

That something is senior linebacker out of Westlake, Ohio, Jake Ryan. Ryan has 104 tackles on the year, two sacks, a pick and two forced fumbles. He’s aided by fellow linebacker and also Ohio native (Cincinnati), Joe Bolden. Bolden has added 93 tackles and two sacks of his own.

And, yes, Michigan’s top-three leading tacklers are all from Ohio, because safety Jarrod Wilson is an Akron product.

What Michigan’s defense has not done is force turnovers. They are 120th in the nation in takeaways.

The end result is that the Wolverines are 5-6, although one saying that comes up a lot when it comes to The Game is “throw the records out.”

It’s funny really, because “the team up north” might be the nicest thing anybody has called Michigan all season.

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