Michigan vs. Connecticut: 10 Things We Learned in Wolverines' Win
If Michigan hoped to avoid another debacle such as the one from Week 3, well, it didn't show Saturday versus UConn in East Hartford.
For a second straight week, the heavily favored Wolverines struggled to put away a lower-tier opponent, barely limping to a 24-21 victory over the Huskies, who have just two wins over ranked programs in their history. Michigan scraped its way to a 28-24 win this past Saturday over visiting Akron.
Team 134, now at 4-0, has serious adjustments to make if it's to challenge Ohio State for a Big Ten Championship.
Michigan Is a 2-2 Team with a 4-0 Record
A few lucky draws have landed Michigan at 4-0. Who knows what the outcome would have been had UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer connected for 29 or more yards during his team's last chance. On 4th-and-29 from around his own 30-yard line, Whitmer faced the task of doing or dying against the Wolverines secondary.
The Illinois transfer completed the pass, but it went just 26 yards. Blake Countess made the tackle, and Michigan ran out the clock.
The final play in Week 4 wasn't the only play in which the football gods cut the Wolverines a break. In Week 3, Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl was one throw away from toppling the mighty Maize and Blue in Ann Arbor.
Records are deceiving. Michigan's 4-0 isn't the same as say, Alabama's perfect record. Michigan's lone quality win now comes into question: Notre Dame barely beat Michigan State, 17-13, on Saturday. The Irish were defeated 41-30 by the Wolverines. But that win doesn't look as healthy as it once did.
Turnovers Are a Huge Problem
Michigan can't take care of the football. Quarterback Devin Gardner isn't making matters any better, either.
The redshirt junior threw two interceptions and botched a snap that cost Michigan six points. UConn's Ty-Meer Brown capitalized on the miscue in the third quarter, giving the Huskies a commanding 21-7 advantage at Rentschler Field.
Disposing of teams isn't possible when constant mistakes are part of the game plan. Gardner needs to learn how to value the football or Michigan stands no chance of winning the Big Ten.
Expectations Lowered for Team 134?
This one is for those who live and die with Michigan football each and every week: Do you still feel that the Wolverines are capable of winning 10 games?
Keep in mind that they've crept to a pair of wins during the "light" part of their schedule. November brings Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern.
And then Ohio State.
At this rate, estimating seven or eight wins may be the way to go. It's too early to give up on the season, obviously, but a 10-win season seems so far away due to the ineffectiveness during the past two weeks.
Fitz Toussaint Really Wants to Stay at No. 1
Fitz Toussaint is a senior, so of course he wants to keep his job. He's a competitor, so giving way to another isn't going to happen without a fight.
Toussaint rushed for a season-high 120 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against UConn. Yeah, UConn, so it's not like Michigan fans can comfortably say that they're 100 percent certain about the run game.
With a 35-yard and 12-yard touchdown run, Toussaint showed that he's still No. 1...at the moment.
The "Lower-Tier" Teams Aren't Scared of Michigan
Akron didn't appear to be scared of Michigan, nor did UConn, which leaped out to a 21-7 lead in the third quarter.
How could this be? Michigan has the most wins of any Division I program. Its football history is second to none and has been crafted by legends.
So what's the issue with the Zips and Huskies? Those guys sure do have some nerve thinking that they can spoil Michigan...you know, "hail to the victors" and The Big House. That's college football.
Not quite. The Zips and Huskies are onto something: Michigan can be beat, and it won't take a powerhouse to do it. All it takes is four quarters of solid football and a break or two.
The Commitment to a "New" Offense Is Where?
This season, as you've probably been told or have read, was supposed to be the throwback year to Michigan football served Brady Hoke-style. Running to set up the deep pass, which in turn makes points—that's what Hoke wanted to do this fall.
However, he's found himself using the same playbook for Gardner as he did for Denard Robinson, who would have actually been better for Saturday's game against UConn. But he's in the NFL, so that's not possible.
Gardner completed just 13 of 25 passes and threw two picks, a very Robinson-esque passing line. But Gardner didn't come with the rushing yards that Robinson used to bring.
Jehu Chesson Emerging as Go-to
Though only a freshman, Jehu Chesson is making a strong push for go-to receiver.
Jeremy Gallon, a senior, is the leader of the pack. That much is clear. However, Chesson had two catches for 23 yards, including a long of 17 that helped the Wolverines in the third quarter.
Just a few plays later, Gardner fumbled the ball on 4th-and-2 while trying to run for the first down.
Sure, Chesson's effort went to waste. But he showed that he's a reliable target for those last-second, save-the-drive tosses. Two catches aren't enough to vault a guy to "go-to territory," but hey, when the air attack is predicated on just one person—Jeremy Gallon—there is reason to be optimistic when others show something at receiver.
O-Line Is a Problem
The offensive line is young, but there is no reason for it to implode as it's done the past two weeks.
All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan is the anchor. Michael Schofield, also a senior, mans the right side. Together, they should be enough to create some sort of room for running backs and create some sort of time for Gardner.
Saturday, neither happened. Other than Toussaint's 120 yards on the ground, the line did nothing for running backs. And Gardner was another story all together. He had zero time to do anything, let alone complete a pass. He was too busy running from Huskies all night.
Gardner rushed for 59 yards, which is a little deceiving. He was chased for 59 yards. He was lucky enough to get away.
Staff Is Wasting Time by Not Playing Derrick Green
Unless there is something going on behind the scenes that hasn't been reported by the media, then Michigan has no excuse as to why Derrick Green didn't get a snap Saturday. Prior to the 24-21 win over UConn, Green had 13 carries on the year.
After the win, he had 13 carries. See the problem?
The running game needs a boost. Toussaint saved his job for a week. The time for Green is now.
Frank Clark Is the D-Line
If the defensive line didn't have Frank Clark, it wouldn't have much.
That's harsh, sure. But Clark is the only player worth talking about from the line, which has applied little to no pressure on quarterbacks since ousting Central Michigan's Cody Kater in Week 1 after six attempts.
UConn's Whitmer had several seconds to throw Saturday. The same was true in Week 3 for Akron's Pohl, who worked the sideline in a similar manner as Whitmer did against the Wolverines.
Greg Mattison's blitzes helped slow down the Huskies. Clark got a sack out of the deal, too. But it's not enough—not for a team with such lofty goals and dreams.
Now Is Perfect Time for Bye Week
The Wolverines open their Big Ten season Oct. 5 by hosting Minnesota.
Until then, Hoke has to think of a way not to get shell shocked during Homecoming. If the Gophers come into The Big House and knock off Team 134, heads will roll. Jobs will be asked for and player personnel will undergo heavy change.
That being said, now is the perfect time to take a breather. Two close ones against the little guys of college football is enough to make any coach—no matter how confident or proud—reevaluate things and ask the difficult questions.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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