M FOOTBALL- 2016: WOLVERINE’S SPECIAL TEAMS HELP TO BUFFALO COLORADO’S BUFFALOS 45-28.

Jabrill Peppers

The Colorado Buffalos bulled their way into Michigan Stadium Saturday on the heels of two victories against football teams they overwhelmed. They stomped the Idaho State Bengals 56-7 last Saturday, and the week before they gored Colorado State 44-7. The came into Michigan Stadium very prepared, and not intimidated, and were very enthused.  They brought a hurry up offense, and some speedy skill players. For three quarters they gave the Wolverine team its first real test of the season, both offensively and defensively. They dominated the first quarter, besting both the Wolverine’s offense and defense.  The Wolverines special teams struck back first, before a 14 point lead in the early first quarter became a rout.

BUFFALOS WERE STILL GIDDY: The were still chortling regarding what they call the Miracle in Michigan, that devastating last seconds 64-yard Hail Mary winning heave from Kordell Stuart to Michael Westbrook in 1994. That heave was so sudden, perfect, stunning and devastating to M’s fortunes, many watching Wolverines also wanted to heave.

It was one of the most stunning college football plays I have ever seen. As a fan I sat there fully satisfied, basking in the light of an anticipated hard earned victory over a ranked opponent, just seconds away, only to be unbelievably denied, so quickly and oh so finally, by a successful Hail Mary.. It took a minute or two for reality to set in. When it did many wondered where the pass rush was, and why us?

It is no wonder Colorado still celebrates this. It was a perfect call, perfectly executed on their part, and a perfect disaster for the Wolverines. Bill McCartney was the Colorado Head Coach then after having Coached Michigan’s defense, who some called McCartney’s Monsters. McCartney was honored at half time.

In commemoration of that event, the Buffalos wore replica uniforms of those worn when they prevailed in Michigan Stadium in 1994. Fortunately they could not replicate the magic.

This year’s Buffalos, noting the lack of a current weekly Wolverine depth chart, wanted to play “poke the bear” (Wolverine) some more, so they issued a satirical weekly depth chart for the Buffalos, since Harbaugh didn’t issue one for the Wolverines to the media or the Buffs. In retaliation, the Buffs did not furnish a real Buffalo depth chart, but a comic one.

Colorado SID Dave Plati designed a depth chart listing featuring, among others, Elmer Fudd ( QB), Cartman, Frankenstein, Manute Bol, and the Dude, and so on for a two deep depth chart of Colorado players. It was very droll, very well done, even if not football informative in the least. Mr. Plati obviously has entertainment skills outside of the public information arena, and a well-developed sense of humor. So does Harbaugh, but it doesn’t extend to any matters regarding an important pending football game.

He correctly avers that with every game on TV, there is so much video evidence that an opposing Coach has but to take a look to get educated. Therefore, he avers exchanges of a PIO’s depth chart listings compiled by PIOs have become obsolete.

COLORADO WAS A STEP- UP IN COMPETITION FOR THE WOLVERINES: They rumbled into Michigan Stadium 30th in the country against the run. Last game, M had averaged a paltry 2.9-yards per rushing carry, and four or five big plays against the defense stood out in contrast to an otherwise sterling defensive performance.

While there still were some hurtful big plays by Colorado, the Wolverines rushed for 168-yards, and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Ms leading rusher was De’Veon Smith with 11 carries for 87-yards. He broke  a 42-yard TD .

The Buffalos had some football weapons to establish the process of whipping Michgian, which for a while were effective.

The Buffs brought a robust secondary with a great corner, Chidobe Awauzie, while M’s great corner, Jourdan Lewis was still on the bench with a second injury, described as a back sprain. His absence was felt as the Buffalos prospered over the middle. Their linebackers were good. Their slot receivers were agile and fast with hands.The  star of their offense was and is Qb Sefo Liufau.  In their two prior games, he dad averaged 250-yards plus passing and 120-yards plus rushing.

One of the keys to the game was stopping QB rushing yards, and the Wolverines held Sefo to four net rushing yards.

Against the Wolverines Sefo was 16/25 for 246-yards passing, with a long of 70-yards.

In Saturday’s game the Wolverines simply were not ready for Colorado’s scheme, execution, and speed early in the game. The large crowd was into it pregame, and stayed in, even when M fell behind. They were loud, and stayed that way.

Harbaugh said Wednesday practice was not as sharp as usual because of academic responsibilities. M adjustments in the second half took away the middle, as they changed coverage of the slot receiver.

Honorary Captain Tom Brady was very warmly received by Harbaugh and the crowd, and said afterward that Brady gave an impressive talk to the players which was much appreciated.

The grand setting was there. The rain was cleared. Michigan got the toss and received. It was the best possible setting. What could possibly go wrong? The Wolverines were about to find out.

WOLVERINES v BUFFALOS: The Wolverines took possession of the ball at the Buffalo 35 to open. Peppers got a 7 yard run. Some passes fell incomplete, and M punted 36-yards. The ball was returned 32-yards to the Michigan 39. A play later, Colorado QB Sefo Liufau threw a post to an open receiver for 6. This was Colorado’s first possession of the game. In just minutes the Wolverine were down 7 zip.

It got worse quick, as on the next possession M QB Speight was splattered, the ball was fumbled, and captured by the Buffalos. It was returned 18-yards for 6 and after the point, M was down 14. Unbelievable! It looked like neither M’s offense or defense had any clue to solving the rapidly developing adverse situation.

Like the cavalry in an old time western, the special teams rode to the rescue, striking back as quick as a rattler. M’s Michael Jozc separated the ball, and WR Grant Perry picked up the bouncing fumble at the 6, and lugged it into the end zone for a TD. Now it was 7-14.

Again Colorado showed its proficiency, and determination. Sefo Liufau tossed a 50-yard pass that went to the M 30. They lugged it to pay dirt on two carries. This long and disastrous quarter finally ended 21-7. It had dragged on it seemed like forever and the Wolverines were down 14 again.

At about the nine minute mark of the second quarter, Michigan began to right its offensive ship. A 21-yard pass to Jake Butt, and subsequent Jehu Chesson 17-yard blaze over the goal line made it 21-14. M was not so far out of it again.

A little after the 6:00 mark Chesson caught one for 6. Butt dragged across the field for 12-yards, and fumbled. It was recovered by M. Kenny Allen kicked hit a 39-yard FG and it looked like the half would end with M tagging along close behind 17-21.

It would have ended that way but Speight hit Amara Darboh, who produced a stunning 45-yard gallop for six. Michigan now held a surprising 24-21 lead at the half. As Bob Ufer used to say M’s daubers were up.

But not for long, as pesky Colorado had not quit. After the half, the Buffs produced a 3-play 80-yard scoring drive propelled by a 70-yard Sefo Liulau pass. The big play bug bit the Wolverines again. Now it was 24-28.

Soon D’Veon Smith strutted his stuff, with a tough 42-yard TD jaunt for 6 to make it 31-28.

Unfortunately for the Buffs but most certainly fortunate for the Wolverines, around the 10:00 minute mark in the half, Buff QB Sefo had to leave the game with an injury. He had played a very nice game, even if the Buffs converted only one 3rd down of 13 attempted.

The Wolverines then produced a 80-yard drive of 12 plays fueled by a 19-yard Ty Isaac catch. Wilton was sacked for 8, but Grant Perry took a 54-yard catch to the Buff’s 7. Smith got it to the two, Isaac to the one, and then Isaac broke the plane on a one yard run, and finally the Blue had a little separation at 38-28.

The most versatile and complete football player on the team, Jabrill Peppers, then hit the home run he had been contemplating all season. One that had just eluded him earlier this season.  He finally burned an elusive 54-yard punt return to TD land, to make the final score of M-45, C-28 a fact.

STATE OF THE SPEIGHT: Last week Wilton Speight was the Big Ten player of the Week. He did not fare that well this week. Wilton was not on top of his long ball game today but he was essential to this victory. Wilton did not throw an interception although several were close to being intercepted. He fumbled only after pass protection broke down. It was not on him, he had no time, no chance.

He hit the underneath routs, used his feet well on occasion. He was 16/29 for 229-yards with 1 TD, and had a long 54. Both John O’Korn and Shane Morris replaced him for a play early on.

WIDE RECEIVERS AND SPECIAL TEAMS WERE THE POINT OF THE SPEAR: Jabrill Peppers returned 4 punts for 99-yards thus aiding, according to Harbaugh, in obtaining the team good field position. The 99-yards, included his 54-yard home run.

Jabrill was asked afterwards if he was tried from wearing so many hats in the football games. He smilingly said that no it is the practices that wear him out and he agreed when Jake Butt said the same thing. He has great appearance, interview presence, off the field poise, and does not display ego.

He was very happy to finally hit the home run. Both he and Jake said they can play over tired, too. He has a lot going for him off the field and on the field his accomplishments speak for themselves. In my opinion he was the player of the game as he continues to learn, and earn. He is becoming one of the best in the game.

Jabrill was not the only star on special teams. Michael Jocz blocked a punt in the critical first quarter to get the Wolverines off the snide on the scoreboard. The ball bounced a little was picked up by Grant Perry and run 6-yards for the TD. They had trailed 14 to zip.  Special teams coverage on returns were not always up to par, but on the whole special teams performed in an extraordinary manner.

The big three wide receivers, Butt, Chesson, and Darboh, all were impressive again. Butt had no TDs, but was 7 of 21 with a long of 21. Chesson was only 3 for 25, but had a TD. Darboh had two for 57 and galloped for a 45-yard TD.

A surprising special teams disappointment was Kenny Allen’s performance. He missed two field goals. Maybe all that his was not Kenny’s fault. FGs depend on the hold and snapper as well as the kicker. Harbaugh said after game that there had been snap problems during practice. Also, Kenny’s punting did not seem quite up to Kenny’s standard.

GOOD GAME FOR THE WOLVERINES: This was a great test for the Wolverines. They were behind 14 points twice against a decent football team and did not fall apart, but fought back.

Its going to be an exciting football season as the Wolverines earn seasoning. You can bet your bottom dollar, if you got one left, that the Nittany Lions will roar into Michigan Stadium with as much mayhem in mind as possible.

Possibly the Wolverines can tame the Lion’s ardor as the Big Ten season is started. It ought to be another good football fight.

Go Blue!

About Andy Andersen

Andy Andersen, Senior Football Writer andyandersen@wowway.com Andy is a Michigan graduate and long time Michigan Football fan, having attended games during the tenures of Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan, Bump Elliot, Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. He attempts to present articles consistent with the concerns and interests of Michigan Fans.