Found September 24, 2013 on
The Detroit Sports Site:
For the Michigan Wolverines, everything looked and felt fine as the team was rolling in a 59-9 win over hapless Central Michigan in the season opener.
That day, though, a frustrated trend quietly started. Turnovers, and lots of them, would follow. Despite the lopsided score, the Wolverines gave the ball away three times. It didn’t cost them that Saturday, but it would quickly begin to on the scoreboard.
The next week against Notre Dame, another trend was started: opposing teams scoring off those sudden change turnovers against Michigan. The Fighting Irish needed only one turnover to put a scare into the Wolverines, when Stephon Tuitt grabbed an ill-advised Devin Gardner pass and deposited it into the end zone. Michigan would collect four turnovers (one interception for a score) in their near miss against Akron, and last weekend against UConn, four more turnovers nearly doomed them on the road. An explosive fumble recovery put the Wolverines in a big hole, and it was the team’s third such play in as many weeks.
Despite the fact that the Wolverines are undefeated, they won’t live by this sword in the Big Ten. During the bye week, emphasis has to be placed on Gardner and his ball security. Early in the season, it looks as if he simply doesn’t value the football enough. When mistakes like an interception in the end zone and a fumble recovery on the offensive side of the field happen, it becomes even clearer. Perhaps during the bye week, Gardner should be forced to carry a football around swaddled in a blanket. Then he might understand the value of holding the ball.
Simply put, Michigan won’t escape road contests in the Big Ten kicking the ball away three or four times a game. They won’t survive match ups with several opportunistic defenses who make a living scoring off mistakes. Road contests with Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa aren’t a cake walk, considering every one of those teams is better than Akron and UConn, teams the Wolverines had to stage furious fourth quarter rallies against just to win.
Looking ahead in the nearer future, the Wolverines might even face trouble in their next game, from the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ defense. Minnesota have forced seven turnovers this fall against weaker competition, but it’s clear they have been getting to the ball. If Michigan isn’t careful, they could face a tough challenge immediately after their week off.
There’s been plenty of debate about what Michigan has to to in order to win the Big Ten, but after four weeks and plenty of near-misses against mediocre competition, it’s clear that limiting the turnovers, especially from the quarterback position, is the biggest key towards the Wolverines finding success. Should the team do this, they’ll have a chance to have success in league play. That’s especially considering how well the defense has played, even when presented with a short field most of the time.
Limiting the defensive touchdown streak against them will be the key to that, though, whether Gardner has been forced to carry a ball in a blanket this week or not.
Laugh Of The Week: On fourth down late in the fourth quarter, conventional football wisdom says a team has to throw the ball. Considering the situation was 4th and 21, that is even more obvious. Andrew Maxwell apparently didn’t believe that to be the case during Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, as he scrambled out of the pocket, then ran out of bounds well short of the first down marker. He didn’t throw the ball attempting to draw a flag or put his receiver in a position to make the catch. If any one play summed up the Michigan State Spartans’ misfortune at quarterback in 2013, that was it. Maxwell shouldn’t see the field again, simply based on this ridiculous play. Not only was it funny, it was quite pathetic as well.
Local Big Ten This Week
Michigan State: Idle
#18 Michigan 4-0 (0-0 Big Ten Legends)
Michigan State 3-1 (0-0 Big Ten Legends)
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
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