Darrell Funk is turning around this offensive line unit.
Biggest Encouragement: The Defense
When not put into less than desirable positions from offensive or special teams turnovers, the defense played as good as you'd expect against a team like Miami. The Redhawks finished with only 8 first downs, 33 yards rushing and 198 total yards of offense. All 10 points came off of turnovers.
Miami's Andrew Hendrix spent much of the day running for his life off of typically only 4-man rushes. He completed 12 of 26 passes, had 1 TD and 1 INT. Jake Ryan (6 tackles) spent most of his day all over the field, but he was in the backfield more often than not. Joe Bolden led the team in tackles with 7, and also notched a very impressive pass break up in the second half that killed a short Redhawk drive.
The secondary was tested a lot in this game. Miami is a primarily a passing offense, although they did split their plays 26 pass/24 run. Jabrill Peppers, back from his injury spent much of his day on the corner where he was tested often. He looked very sharp in his coverages. And credit Jourdan Lewis for hauling in Michigan's first (and only) takeaway of the season.
Biggest Disappointment: Turnovers
Michigan ranks 124th in the nation in turnover margin at -7. So far they've thrown 5 interceptions and funneled 3 times while only getting 1 INT on defense (Lewis against Miami). Its very difficult to have any sort of success when you're giving the ball away so often. Through 3 games, Michigan has looked sharp in some areas, but ball security is not one of them. Notre Dame only scored 3 points off turnovers against Michigan, but all of those occurred after the game way already out of hand. Against Miami, it was the Gardner pass the sailed and the botched kickoff return that let the Redhawks right back into the game. As they go forward, that negative margin needs to improve.
Biggest Surprise: The OL
Once again, the offensive line played well. They're not going to get the recognition they deserve, because frankly the OL usually never does, but they played a very solid football game yesterday. It seems to me that this unit is improving every week. Derrick Green, who Hoke said had a great week of practice, had another big day rushing 22 times for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 6.2 average, as well as Michigan's overall 6.1 ypc average were the result of holes being made and backs hitting them. Hoke said after the game that their emphasis was to run the ball yesterday. The OL helped make that happen.
Biggest Concern Going Forward: Gardner
I don't know what's going on, but there's something up with Devin Gardner. I don't know if his confidence was shaken in the Notre Dame debacle, but something has rattled Gardner mentally. He's making some bad throws into traffic, he's not getting rid of the ball when he should, and his overall form just looks wonky. Yes, I think wonky the word I will choose.
Watching Devin in warmups, he just looks off. He's throwing weird. He's not planting his back foot. It's just strange.
There were rumors yesterday that Shane Morris could end up starting due to, and this is purely speculation, Devin suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Obviously those rumors ended up being just that, but it was out there. Devin did take a very big hit on the last play of the Notre Dame game, but obviously he was cleared to play.
Either way, Devin doesn't exude confidence right now and that has to be a concern for this team. Sure, Funchess didn't play, and that might've had something to do with Gardner performance. But the accuracy of is his passes and decision-making should have nothing to with the receivers he's throwing to.
Biggest Takeaway: This team is improving
This game had an Akron-esque feel to it midway through the 2nd quarter and into halftime. But the way Michigan was able to come out and put the hammer down in the 2nd half has to be at least somewhat encouraging. A year ago, that didn't happen.
There is a ton of pressure on Hoke, this staff and the team as a whole to start delivering the particular brand of football Michigan fans expect. What we saw yesterday, which I'll admit was worrisome at times, overall was a step in the right direction. The defense played very well, Michigan ran the ball with consistency, and in the end put away an opponent that could've hung around all game long.
At a time when the rest of the league is looking about as unimpressive as they ever have, Michigan rolled to a 24-point win against a team that frankly, could probably hang with almost everyone else in the Big Ten.
Does this team have flaws? Sure. But as a Michigan fan, seeing improvement is the key in games like this. Next week Utah, fresh off a bye week, comes to town in a very big game for the Maize & Blue. The Big Ten is struggling right now against schools from the power 5 conferences...and Utah, a Pac-12 team, is ready to come into the Big House and plant their flag (metaphorically speaking).
Related MBN Clicks:
• Michigan 34, Miami (NTM) 10
• Miami (NTM) Pregame Photos