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Michigan v Notre DameAfter beating Appalachian State to a pulp last week with a final score of 52-14, I told college football fans that while the victory was good, Michigan was still a long way from how good they could be. Although some didn’t agree with me, I think it’s safe to say that everyone now understands exactly what I was talking about after Michigan was shutout and defeated by Notre Dame with a final score of 31-0.

Now, I’m not going to say I am surprised that they loss, because I’m not. If anything, I am surprise in the way they loss. This loss was pitiful, and considering this will be the last time we see Michigan and Notre Dame face-off for a while, it was even more disappointing because let’s be honest one of the main reasons we love as fans love this rivalry is because of the great games that it has produced over the years. For the last game to end with a shutout, was sad embarrassing, especially for Michigan and for any college football fan, who was looking forward to an intense nail bitter from start to finish.

If you ask me, the blame for this loss doesn’t go on one person or even one area of the team. The blame for this loss goes on everybody, starting with the defense.

For those who don’t remember, coach Hoke brought up his concerns about the defense after they defeated Appalachian State last Saturday. In particular, he brought up his concerns about the defensive line and their lack of pressure and ability to get sacks. While some people may have swept that under the rug at the time, Hoke’s statements about the defensive line prove to be right in this game against Notre Dame.

Despite a few pass rushes, Michigan’s defensive line never got any pressure let alone any sacks against Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Which not only allowed him to much time in the pocket but it also allowed plays to go longer, giving his receivers plenty of time to get open and for a play to be made.

I honestly believe a lot of the defensive line’s problems had to do with a lack of execution and tackling. During the few times that the defensive line was able to pressure Golson, they allowed him to slip way, once again allowing him make a play. Although the running game didn’t exactly shine, the defensive line and at times the linebackers didn’t do a good job of wrapping up and tackling, which once again allowed the Notre Dame offense to move the chains and score the ball.

While I would like to say my main frustration is with the Michigan’s defensive front line, I have to say my main frustration with the Michigan defense in this game, was the secondary. After providing good overall play against Appalachian State, Michigan’s secondary came into this game, looking like they didn’t know what pass coverage was, let alone provide it for four quarters of play.

Now, before I get into the lack of play by the secondary, let me say that some of the bad play had to do with the fact that certain match-ups in the secondary didn’t holdup well without cornerback Raymond Taylor, who got hurt in the first quarter and nickelback Jabrill Peppers, who dressed but was sidelined all game. Now, I’m not saying that those two being out excuse the horrible play of the secondary, I am simply saying that both Taylor and Peppers are key parts to the success that this secondary had last week and they did not play in this game, which should stand for something.

Nevertheless, like I said before, nothing excuses the lack of play that we witness from this secondary on Saturday night and the problem is that the entire secondary was horrible. When it came to cornerbacks, they were either being flagged with pass interference penalties or getting beat off the line from the moment the ball was snap. The safeties weren’t much better, seeing that they were never consistently around to offer help over the top. Then to makes matter worse, the entire secondary, did a horrible job of coming up and making open field tackles, which is something that they actually did well last week against Appalachian State.

While I’m sure there are some fans, who may want to blame this all on the players in the secondary, I have to say I was really frustrated with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison in this one too. It was clear to just about everyone that the press coverage wasn’t working seeing that every cornerback was getting beat off the line and yet Mattison never made the adjustment to back them off and stop playing so tight at the line of scrimmage. Then if that’s not enough, he never seemed to add any extra help to the slot, which is where Michigan’s secondary got exposed the most and he never made a point to back-off from man-to-man coverage and try zone coverage.

I don’t know about you but I do honestly believe that Michigan has a solid secondary on this year’s roster. However, to not make any adjustments and stick with what look like the same coverage that allowed you to be torch in the first half, just didn’t make sense to me and I have to get on Mattison for that.

Although I don’t want to take anything away from Golson and the great game he had, I have to say that for the most part, Michigan’s defense, especially the secondary, made this game almost easy for him. I mean think about it, he received basically no pressure, he had all day to throw, his receivers had all day to get open, when they weren’t already wide open and they were able to move the ball on a consistent basis. I mean come on, it doesn’t get any easier that, all the same, I do still credit Golson and the rest of the Notre Dame offense for taking advantage of what Michigan’s defense gave them.

Since I am talking about Notre Dame’s offense, let me bring up Michigan’s offense, who is also to blame for this embarrassing loss to Notre Dame. I know I made a big deal about the defense, and trust me when I say that I had every right to. However, my irritation with the defense, doesn’t trump my equal irritation with the offense.

In my opinion a lot of Michigan’s offensive problems had a lot to do with the little things, one of those things being dropped passes. Despite being shutout, the Michigan offense did show moments of success, especially through the air. During the first half, we saw quarterback Devin Gardner throw some pretty nice accurate passes and while a good amount of them were caught which led to plays being made. During crucial moments, in particular on third down plays, we saw to many receivers drop passes that were more than catch-able. While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, fans quickly saw how the missed opportunities hurt the Wolverines offense down the road, especially since the defense didn’t step up and get stops.

Even though I do feel like Gardner had a solid game, I feel like he became his own worse enemy in the second half. In first half, Gardner did exactly what he was supposed to. He made accurate passes, he found the open receivers and most importantly, he got the ball of quickly and allowed his receivers to make plays. The only complaint I had in the first half, was the fact that his receivers didn’t always have his back when it came to making the catch on the big plays, as I mentioned above.

However, in the second half, I felt like Gardner went back to his old hero syndrome complex, which is where he has tendency to start going back to old habits, which includes forcing things because he wants to put his team on his back and lead them to victory. A perfect example of that is when Gardner stared down his receiver so much that he didn’t make the read on the safety, which caused him to be intercepted and once again put an end to another possible drive. Then later on he did it again, however this time he decided to scramble and instead of sliding or simply going down after being, he decided to fight for more yardage but was stripped in the process for a fumble.

Now, don’t misunderstand because I am not blaming this loss on Gardner. I’m only stating that Gardner has to get out of the bad habit of trying to force things just so he can get something going. I know his heart is in the right place but his actions put Michigan in a worse situation than they already were in, seeing that he threw three interceptions in this game.

Nevertheless, I stand by statement above that this was not all Gardner fault, nor was it all on the receivers. Although they had their rough moments in this game, I also have to put a good amount of the blame on the offensive line. After having some solid moments in the first half, the offensive line didn’t do the best job down the line of protecting Gardner or allowing him anytime in the pocket.

While that was frustrating, what was even more frustrating was the fact that offensive line didn’t provide any consistent holes for the running game, which forced the Wolverines to become one-dimensional, making it easier for the Notre Dame defense to focus on one area of the Michigan offense.

When it comes running backs De’veon Smith and Derrick Green, I have said it before and I will say again, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be able to provided a nice one-two punch combo in the running game all season long for the Wolverines. However for them to be able to do that, the offensive line has to be able to control the line of scrimmage and open running lanes or them. Just like they have to be able to provide consistent protection for Gardner.

Again, I am not saying this, to blame the loss on the offensive line. This is me simply explaining how the offensive line’s lack of execution also helped the Wolverines to lose this game.

It’s just as I said earlier, every one is to blame for this loss to Notre Dame, from the defense, to the offense, to the coaching staff. Everyone and I do mean everyone is to blame for this loss.

That being said, Michigan doesn’t time to hang their head. At this point, you have no choice but to take your butt whopping like men and learn from this embarrassing loss and take what you learn into the rest of the season. I said last week that Michigan was still a long way from how good they could be and after this loss, I am even more convinced that they still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, none of that changes the fact that Michigan can be one of the better teams in the Big Ten this year, if they fixed the small and big issues that I mention above. The talent is there and I think “some” of the coaching is there but adjustments have to be made and hopefully soon. I suppose only time will tell.

Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Editor of Radio One Detroit

For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.

Michigan Drops The Ball In Their Loss to Notre Dame, Proving That They Still Have Much To Learn was originally published on wchbnewsdetroit.com

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