“As the Big Ten conference play approaches, the Wolverines are looking to forget about September and focus on winning their first Legends Division title.”
Most Michigan football fans were not expecting a rollercoaster ride in September. After pounding Central Michigan on opening weekend with a 59-9 beat-down, Michigan followed with a thrilling 41-30 victory over Notre Dame under the lights. It appeared as if the Wolverines were on a mission to dominate their competition in 2013. Devin Gardner looked like a fringe Heisman candidate, passing for four touchdowns against the Irish and rushing for 82 yards, and Michigan was sniffing a top-10 national ranking, sitting at #11 and trending up.
Then, all of sudden, things began to fall apart for Michigan football. Akron came town ready to play on September 14th, challenging the Wolverines right down to the final second. Michigan escaped with a 28-24 victory and a serious wake up call as to what happens when an opponent is taken lightly. One week later, the Wolverines traveled to the east coast to take on the UConn Huskies in a primetime matchup. The Wolverines offense struggled for most of the first half but their defense helped erase a 21-7 deficit to emerge victorious as running back Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the offense in the second half.
Uncertainty looms over Michigan football’s 2013 destiny even with a 4-0 record. Devin Gardner has 10 turnovers already this season, three of which have been returned for touchdowns. He completed only 11 of 23 passes against UConn for a mere 97 yards. His confidence is gone. His mental toughness appears to be thin and he has inspired little trust in the fan base after his performance in the past two games. He’s not getting much help from his offensive line either, as the inexperience of Jack Miller, Graham Glasglow and Kyle Kalis have certainly reared their ugly head at times. Jake Ryan is expected to return from his ACL injury in early October to help bolster the defense; however it’s unclear what his effectiveness will be, as is the case with all ACL injuries. Devin Funchess has appeared limited by nagging injuries, and big-time freshman running back recruit Derrick Green has barely seen the field.
Nonetheless, the Wolverines still have plenty of weapons to work with as they enter Big Ten play. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon has been incredible to start the season, amassing 328 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Fitz Toussaint has been a workhorse at running back, rushing for 319 yards and five touchdowns, while essentially playing every snap in the past three games. The defense has remained tough while the offense has struggled, holding opposing teams to only 311 yards of offense per game. Desmond Morgan delivered the key play against UConn, in the form of a one-handed interception in UConn territory, which shifted momentum for good. Blake Countess has three interceptions already, including the game-sealer against Notre Dame.
While many of the Michigan faithful are beginning to panic, Brady Hoke is un-phased and keeping his team focused. The bye week last week will certainly help the Wolverines get back to basics, along with re-instilling some confidence in Devin Gardner. With Minnesota coming to town, the Wolverines certainly cannot afford another second-rate performance. Fans know how well the maize and blue are capable of playing, as the victory against Notre Dame proved. In order for 2013 to be a success though, the Wolverines must forget about September, forget about blowouts, and forget about how good they can be. For 2013 to be a success, they must turn the page on September and welcome October as a month improve, a month to look forward to, and a month to dominate.