On Saturday, the Wolverines picked up an impressive 40-31 win over Notre Dame (their only opportunity for such a thing during their four-game nonconference schedule). Michigan continued to show a bit more and as a result, we got a better feel for this team. Here are three things we learned in the Wolverines’ win:
1. This offense has the potential to be very good. Eight different receivers were involved in the passing game. Fitzgerald Toussaint looked solid and forced the Notre Dame front seven to be honest in deciding how to defend the Wolverines. Devin Gardner showed progress in his decision making, while also taking risks -- some good, others not as good -- that could pay off in the long run. All of those elements combined make for a pretty potent offense and the Wolverines showed flashes of that against the Irish. Whether it was Jeremy Gallon making a catch that just seems scientifically impossible or players around Gardner showing they know what to do when he scrambles, Michigan showed that it has the skill to really utilize the type of playbook that offensive coordinator Al Borges can put together.
2. The defense needs to make major strides. As a whole, the Michigan defense needs to be much more consistent. It allowed 18 plays of 10 or more yards and the Irish’s two true touchdowns were 75- and 90-yard drives in which they methodically marched down the field. The front four provided some pressure on Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, but there were far too many times that he had to much time to sit in the pocket. Michigan showed off a few of Greg Mattison’s blitzes, which freed up guys like Brennen Beyer and Raymon Taylor for big-play opportunities. The secondary as a whole looked out of sorts at times and were at fault for several of Notre Dame’s big plays.
3. There’s a “clutchness” about this group. Even with the bad that was evident on the field, Michigan displayed that it has an ability to come up with the big plays when needed. In the Irish’s five trips to the red zone, they only scored three times and the Wolverines came up with what they needed to be successful. That trait is necessary for championship teams and finding ways to win is something the Wolverines haven’t always been able to do in the past.