Taking a game on the road against a sneaky Minnesota team was absolutely vital for Michigan as they try to keep the dreams of a Big Ten Championship alive. Some key performances were needed in order for that happen, and we're here to recap them; good and bad.
As always, we will start with the positives.
1. Devin Gardner - QB
Devin Gardner out together one of the most important performances of the year for Michigan. When Denard Robinson was scratched last minute, it wasn't a question of who would step in. Gardner had been preparing all week to see some action behind center. But nobody anticipated the break out he had against the Gophers.
Gardner looked so composed in the pressure situation and did not let the moment get the best of him. He was making good decisions, didn't force anything, and showed the ability to put the ball on the money.
He completed 12 of 18 passes for 234 yards and 2 TDs. One of those scores was a 45-yard bomb to Drew Dileo, and the other was a perfectly placed ball on a fade route to Jeremy Gallon.
2. Fitzgerald Toussaint - RB
Fitz Toussaint has been struggling mightily all season long, but he finally showed some productivity on Saturday against Minnesota. Toussaint ran for 70 yards on 13 attempts, his 2nd best game, statistically, this season.
But here's why it was his best game in terms of production.
Fitz usually has a hard time with three specific aspects of the game: getting to the edge, breaking tackles, and exploding through the hole up front. He did all of those things very well against the Gophers.
I think he found himself in this game, and he will use it to move forward with the play we've been expecting all season.
1. Thomas Rawls
The return of Thomas Rawls had me very excited. After all, he hadn't seen any action in two weeks, but he really didn't make any good for himself with 43 yards on 16 carries as for as starting goes. He did show his ability to move the chains and punch it across the goal line in short yardage situations. But it wasn't anything to make a case for a start.
The lack of speed from Rawls showed up like a black eye on Saturday. We knew he didn't have great foot speed to begin with, but it hadn't really hurt him up to this point.
2. Devin Funchess - TE
Devin Funchess really hasn't been making much noise since the beginning of the season, when we saw reason to put a lot of hope into the Freshman TE. He has a huge plus size to his game -- the body of a TE but hands and athleticism of a WR. But he only had one catch against the Gophers, giving him just two over the past three weeks.
There's no doubt that Funchess is built to make his noise in the red zone. That's where all of his skills can really be exploited against the opposition. But we haven't seen so much of that lately, and I think it's one of the reasons the Michigan offense has struggled as of late.