Bowl game leaves more questions for U-M

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
10:00
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Generally, the end of a season brings some kind of closure to the coaches, players and fanbase. However, with Michigan's 31-14 loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State, it seems as though there are twice as many questions as answers about what Team 134 actually was.

Here’s a closer look at those questions that will now become the identity of this team for the next eight months.

Does Shane Morris take over at QB next season?

[+] EnlargeShane Morris
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesShane Morris' performance was a glimmer of hope in a bleak Buffalo Wild Wings bowl performance for Michigan on Saturday.
He definitely surprised quite a few people with how composed he was through the game. Even more surprising was that he was most effective in the first half (15-of-19 passing for 121 yards), when most young quarterbacks would probably be finding their footing. Though he is the prototypical pocket passer, he still displayed his athleticism in the second half when he broke out for a 40-yard run. One more year of Devin Gardner at quarterback means one more year that Brady Hoke and Al Borges don’t begin running the offense that they really want. And if he can use his game experience and grow during the offseason, he could be the best bet for the Wolverines come fall.

Does Morris’ poise and Michigan’s lack of playmakers means Gardner is a WR again?

The Wolverines are clearly in need of wide receivers next season. Devin Funchess (49 catches, 748 yards) and Jake Butt (20 catches, 235 yards) both return, but the only other receiver who tallied more than 10 catches this season that will be back is Jehu Chesson (15 catches, 221 yards). When Gardner played receiver last season he picked up 266 yards on 16 receptions. That kind of production could be huge in the receiver corps next season.

What was with Derrick Green's lack of touches during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl?

Green saw the field in the first half but didn’t get a carry (his only carry) until the second half. After a season in which he carried the ball 82 times for 265 yards, he only accounted for five yards on one carry against Kansas State. The Wolverines' run game was nearly nonexistent, and yet they didn’t even give Green the chance to turn it into something early on. Hoke said that the Wolverines needed to pass the ball more in the second half since they were down, but that doesn’t explain that lack of Green -- who proved himself as the most talented running back this season -- during the first two quarters.

Did the defense do anything between Ohio State and Kansas State?

The Wolverines defense never picked up any momentum on defense and did nothing to aid an offense that -- all things considered -- looked at least decent. On the first three drives the Wildcats scored without much opposition from Michigan. Kansas State was 7 of 11 on third downs. The scouting report was relatively clear, and the Wolverines just didn’t seem to execute. The first item on that report would’ve been: Tyler Lockett is the go-to receiver. Lockett accounted for three touchdowns on 10 receptions and 116 yards against Michigan.

Second, the defensive line needed to find a way to get pressure on Jake Waters and instead, Michigan only accounted for two sacks and four tackles for a loss. Those aren’t exactly promising stats when the Wolverines really needed rattle Waters in order for the D to get off the field. Third, Michigan needed to play with fundamentals and technique -- their keywords this season-- against a team that they knew would be very well-coached and very disciplined. Instead, it gave up big plays on several occasions because it was out of position.

Why did the problems stay the same all season?

Obvious statement: Over the course of four months teams should improve. However, with Michigan the problems that cropped up in week one and two were the same ones that plagued Michigan on Saturday: the offensive line’s inability to run block, the lack of a running back being able to create anything when the O-line did block, dropped passes, struggling to create a solid four-man rush, a secondary that is either out of position or in the right position but not able to finish on plays consistently. Why couldn’t the Wolverines find answers to these consistently throughout the season? Why couldn’t the coaches correct them? Why couldn’t the players execute? This might be the most troublesome question of all.

Chantel Jennings | email

Oregon/Pac-12 reporter

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