Michigan's Secondary Sinks Team Against Notre Dame

Saturday night’s game was the last meeting between the Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the foreseeable future; something that broadcasters Dan Hicks and Mike Mayock wouldn’t let you forget. It was also the most lopsided contest in the rivalry since 2007, when Michigan shutout the Irish and scored 38 points. Notre Dame accomplished a similar feat with a 31-0 final score.

Michigan’s play in this game was eerily similar to that of last year’s team. Last year, Devin Gardner was a turnover machine, there was little semblance of a running game, the offensive line was notoriously porous, and the secondary gave up too many easy completions. This game was not much different, but I credit issues in Michigan’s secondary with the majority of the blame for this atrocious loss.

Let me be fair, it was a game of attrition for Michigan’s defensive backs from the beginning as starting nickel corner Jabrill Peppers was not in the game after injuring his ankle last week against Appalachian State. Only to make matters worse was the fact that Raymon Taylor would leave the game with an injury well before half time.

When the likes of Channing Stribbling are seeing a lot of field time in a big time game, it should spell disaster. Stribbling is a big defensive back, but simply didn’t have the speed to hang with Notre Dame’s receivers. On the other hand, Jourdan Lewis had to resort to illegal means to compensate for his lack of size, as he was flagged twice on the same drive for pass interference, which would lead to the first score of the night for the Irish.

The secondary was done no favors by the fact that a sideline pass from Everett Golson to Ben Koyak, which video evidence showed was out of bounds, was confirmed as a catch from the official review. However, the next play was a 24-yard strike to William Fuller, which firmly put the Wolverines in a desperate need for points at the end of the half.

While the Michigan offense played a poor game overall, a fair amount of that performance can be traced back to the play of a depleted secondary. The team only ran 22 designed runs from the backfield, being forced to abandon a running game that couldn’t get going due to the early deficit and a paltry 1.9 yards per carry by RB Derrick Green. Notre Dame’s movement through the air, in large part, can be thanked for that.

Devin Gardner rarely looked good last season when playing in pressure situations, and tonight was no exception as he was forced to air the ball out once the team fell behind. Gardner threw three interceptions, all in the second half, and also fumbled twice in the contest.

Given their quarterback’s inability to shoulder the entire offense, it is imperative their defense keep them within range of maintaining a balanced offense—something they obviously couldn’t do in this contest. If Michigan wants to make a run at Michigan State and Ohio State for the east division title, they will need Raymon Taylor and Jabrill Peppers to return to the field, and soon. Courtney Avery is the team’s best corner, but teams can easily look the other way when Stribbling and Lewis are in the lineup.

Other Injury Notes:

Devin Funchess also left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent lower body injury. He needed the help of the training staff to stand, but was able to walk gingerly on his right leg.

On Michigan’s last play of the game, Devin Gardner took an illegal blindside hit after his third interception. He was administered basic concussion test on the sideline, but did not appear to have sustained anything serious.


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