Nothing But ‘Net – Week #01 – 10/31/2016 – Season Preview

mhoops_logo_bigI know, it’s hard to get excited about college basketball in the middle of such an exciting college football season, but it’s that time.  The first game is this Friday (11/04/2016) in Crisler Arena at 7:00.  It’s an exhibition vs. Armstrong State.  In fact, the team has already had an open practice this past week (Tuesday, 10/25/2016) in Crisler.  That went pretty well, and gave us a quick look at this season’s team.

Here’s my standard description of this weekly column:

Yeah, it’s time for University of Michigan men’s basketball, and this is the place to read all about it: “Nothing But ‘Net” on UMGoBlue.com.  Check back every Monday morning between now and the end of the season (hopefully the National Championship game again) for a quick, concise wrap-up of the previous week, and a look ahead at the upcoming week, all in one easy-to-read article.

As always here at UMGoBlue.com, the perspective is “by fans, for fans”.  I’m a fan (since 1974), and I go to all the home games, and watch/listen to all the away games.  I don’t have any special access (other than being an usher in Sections 209-210), I don’t go to the press conferences, and I don’t interview high school recruits.   I see the same things you do, and write about them as a fan.

Once again, let’s get right to the big question:

How good is the 2016-2017 team going to be?  The quick answer: about the same as last season.

So, how was last season?  In my preseason preview last year, I predicted “pretty good”, and that was about right.  Last season’s team wasn’t bad, but they weren’t great either.  I expect this season’s team to be about the same.  They’re not ranked in the Coaches Poll, and they’re picked to finish 6th or 7th in the Big Ten.

Read on for more details.

Last Season

Michigan ended last season with a record of 23-13 (10-8 in the Big Ten).  They went 10-3 in pre-conference play, with some good wins (Texas, in the Bahamas, and at N.C. State), some understandable losses (at home against a good Xavier team, vs. [#18] Connecticut, in the Bahamas, and at [#19] SMU), and a bunch of unsurprising wins against cupcakes.

In Big Ten play, Michigan won a couple games that they weren’t supposed to win (vs. [#3] Maryland at home, and vs. [#18] Purdue at home), lost several games that they were expected to lose (at [#20] Purdue, at [#16] Iowa, at home vs. [#22] Indiana, at home vs. [#10] Michigan State, at [#6] Maryland, and at home vs. [#16] Iowa), and lost a couple “toss-up” games on the road (at Ohio State, and at Wisconsin).  Still, they finished above 0.500 in the Big Ten, which was better than expected.

In the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan was the #8 seed, and they beat the #9 seed (Northwestern) in the 2nd round, then had their biggest win of the season, when they upset the #1 seed (Indiana) in the 3rd round.  They lost to the #4 seed (Purdue) in the tournament semi-finals, but did well enough overall to get invited to the NCAA Tournament.

In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan was a #11 seed in the East Regional, and had to play a “First Four” (play-in) game vs. another #11 seed, Tulsa.  They won that game, but lost to the #6 seed (Notre Dame) in the next round.

Players Lost

Michigan lost 5 players from last season’s roster:

Spike Albrecht – Spike could have returned for a 5th season, since he got a medical redshirt for last season, but he wasn’t invited back.  Instead, he’ll be the latest Michigan player to use the “graduate transfer rule”, and will be immediately eligible to play at Purdue this season.  We’ll miss him.

Kameron Chatman – It was kind of a surprise when Kameron announced at the end of last season that he was leaving the team to transfer to University of Detroit-Mercy (UDM), where he will have to sit out a season and have junior eligibility.  The head coach at UDM is Bacari Alexander, who was an assistant coach at Michigan, and coached Chatman during his freshman season.  Kameron was lightly used at Michigan, and will only be missed in a depth sense.

Aubrey Dawkins – It was also surprising when Aubrey announced at the end of last season that he was leaving the team to transfer to University of Central Florida (UCF) to play for his father, who is the head coach there.  He will also have to sit out a season, and have junior eligibility.  After a promising freshman season, I thought that Michigan could build their offense around Aubrey, but he regressed during his sophomore season, and now he’s gone.  He will be missed.

Ricky Doyle – Yet another (bad) surprise: Ricky left the team at the end of the season to transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), where he will be closer to home.  He’s another member of the promising class that finished their sophomore seasons, so he’ll have junior eligibility after sitting out a year.  At one point, Ricky looked like the starter at center, then he faded.  Still, he will be missed, mostly in a depth sense.

Caris LeVert – Finally, a graduating senior.  Caris was selected #20 in the 1st round of the NBA draft by the Brooklyn Nets.  He’s still recovering from surgery on the foot injury that cost him huge chunks of his last 2 seasons at Michigan.

On the one hand, it looks really bad that 3 players voluntarily transferred away from Michigan, and a 4th player was forced out, but on the other hand, each of the decisions makes sense when examined individually.  Chatman and Doyle had both slid way down the bench, and were getting less and less playing time, and Dawkins wanted to play for his father.  Michigan will be breaking in their point guard of the future (see below), so there really wasn’t much room for Albrecht.  It’s a shame, but it all makes sense, sort of.  I would be just as happy if everyone (except LeVert, who graduated) had stayed.

Players Returning

The good news is that all 5 starters from the end of last season are returning for this season. In fact, Michigan has a very talented group of players returning this season.  Here they are, by class year (eligibility):

Freshman Eligibility

Brent Hibbitts #0 (6’8”, 210 pounds, F) – Brent is a preferred walk-on, and will be part of the practice squad.  He voluntarily redshirted last season, so he still has freshman eligibility.  We only got to see him briefly in last season’s exhibition game, so we don’t know much about him.  He should see some playing time in “garbage time” this season.

 Sophomore Eligibility

Moritz Wagner #13 (6’11”, 240 pounds, F) – Moritz is probably the most exciting player on the team this season.  He played well at the beginning of last season as a true freshman, then vanished for most of the Big Ten schedule.  Just as suddenly, he reappeared for the postseason games, and was Michigan’s best post player.  He spent the summer in Ann Arbor (Camp Sanderson) working on his conditioning, and he grew an inch and added 15 pounds of muscle.  He also added several inches to his vertical jump.  If he can stay away from foul trouble, he could be a force out there this season.

DJ Wilson #5 (6’10”, 240 pounds, F) – DJ injured his knee during his freshman season, and took a medical redshirt year.  He played some last season, but he never really looked comfortable out there.  He has been moved from center to wing, and we’ll see if that revitalizes his game.  He’s very athletic, with the highest vertical jump on the team.

Junior Eligibility

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 (6’4”, 190 pounds, G) – MAAR got better as the season went on last year.  He was the best player at slashing to the rim, and he showed great athleticism against bigger players.  He doesn’t have the court vision of a point guard, and he doesn’t have the 3-point touch of a shooting guard, but he is fast and fearless.

Mark Donnal #34 (6’9”, 240 pounds, F) – Mark voluntarily redshirted his first season, so he has junior eligibility, even though he is listed as a senior on the official roster.  He began last season as a starter, lost his spot to Doyle, and almost disappeared.  When he got into the non-conference games, he didn’t do much.  Then the Big Ten season started, and he suddenly woke up.  He had several 20+ point games in league play, and became the clear choice for the starting center.  If he can start from that point this season, he could be a force in the Big Ten.

Sean Lonergan #20 (6’5”, 210 pounds, F) – Sean was voluntarily redshirted last season, so he’s a redshirt junior, even if he’s listed as a senior on the official roster.  During his sophomore season he played in 17 games, but only took 2 shots.  He made them both!  I’m not sure how much he will play this season, but I expect it to be mostly “garbage time”.

Duncan Robinson #22 (6’8”, 215 pounds, G/F) – Duncan started last season red hot from 3-point range, then cooled down as the wear-and-tear of the long Big Ten schedule ground him down.  On the positive side, as his 3-point shooting cooled off, he got much better at other phases of his game, especially rebounding and driving to the basket.  His defense could still use some work, and another summer of Camp Sanderson will certainly help.  If he has built up his conditioning and endurance, he could be one of the elite shooters in the Big Ten (and the nation) this season.

Senior Eligibility

Andrew Dakich #11 (6’2”, 190 pounds, G) – Andrew has voluntarily “burned his redshirt” the last two seasons, and has certainly helped the team when it needed him.  He plays hard when he’s in, but he’s obviously a step slower and a lot less athletic than the scholarship players on the other teams.  The opposing defenses get to play 5-on-4 when he’s on the floor, since he refuses to shoot, even when he’s wide open.  Still, he provides valuable rest for the main rotation guards when he’s in, and he can “hold the fort” for a few minutes.

Zak Irvin #21 (6’6”, 215 pounds, G/F) – Zak had a slow start to last season as he recovered from pre-season back surgery.  When both seniors (Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert) went down to injuries, he and Derrick Walton Jr. stepped up as on-floor leaders.  Zak wasn’t particularly efficient, but he managed to score a lot of points when his team needed them.  He played hard, and he provided good leadership.  Look for more of the same this season.

Derrick Walton Jr. #10 (6’1”, 190 pounds, G) – Derrick was the other on-court leader last season, once the seniors went down to injury.  He played pretty well all season, but he was obviously running out of gas near the end.  He was asked to carry a heavy load, due to the injuries, and it took a toll on him.  He’s a very good point guard, with great speed, a nice shooting stroke, and great rebounding instincts.

New Players

Coach Beilein brought in a good recruiting class this season, with four scholarship players, one preferred walk-on, and one transfer:

Austin Davis #51 (6’10”, 240 pounds, F) – Austin finished as runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Michigan last season.  He’s an old-fashioned, back-to-the-basket, physical center.  He’s a good scorer, rebounder, and defender.

Charles Matthews #1 (6’6”, 190 pounds, G) – Charles is a transfer from Kentucky, where he did pretty well as a true freshman.  He’ll have to sit out for a year, then he’ll have sophomore eligibility next season.

Xavier Simpson #3 (6’0”, 180 pounds, G) – Xavier is a true freshman, and is the point guard of the future that I mentioned above.  He will get plenty of chances to play this season, studying under Walton.  Xavier was Mr. Basketball for Ohio, and while he’s not very tall, he can run an offense, and he can score.

Jon Teske #15 (7’0”, 245 pounds, C) – Finally!  A 7-footer!  Jon is a rim-protector, which Michigan hasn’t had in years, and he can score.  We’ll see how quickly he can pick up the college game.

Ibi Watson #23 (6’5”, 190 pounds, G/F) – Ibi will remind us of Caris LeVert, once he gets the hang of the college game.  He’s got the same tools, and the same number.

Fred Wright-Jones #14 (5’11”, 170 pounds, G) – Fred was a manager on the team last season, and was converted into a practice player after all the injuries.  He actually dressed for one game last season, although he didn’t play, and now he’s on the official roster.  He’s going to be a practice squad player, but he might get in for some “garbage time”.

The odds are good that either Davis or Teske will voluntarily redshirt this season, but it’s not clear which one it will be.

This Season

Let’s take a look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:

Date Opponent Location Time (ET)
11/04/2016 (Fri) Armstrong State (exh) Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
2K Classic – Ann Arbor Regional
11/11/2016 (Fri) Howard Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
11/13/2016 (Sun) IUPUI Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
2K Classic – Championship Games
11/17/2016 (Thu) Marquette New York, NY 9:30 p.m.
11/18/2016 (Fri) Pittsburgh/SMU New York, NY 4:30/6:30 p.m.
11/23/2016 (Wed) South Carolina Columbia, SC 5:00 p.m.
11/26/2016 (Sat) Mount St. Mary’s Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
11/30/2016 (Wed) Virginia Tech Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
12/03/2016 (Sat) Kennesaw State Ann Arbor, MI TBA
12/06/2016 (Tue) Texas Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
12/10/2016 (Sat) UCLA Los Angeles, CA 8:00 p.m.
12/13/2016 (Tue) Central Arkansas Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
12/17/2016 (Sat) Maryland Eastern Shore Ann Arbor, MI 3:00 p.m.
12/22/2016 (Thu) Furman Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
01/01/2017 (Sun) Iowa Iowa City, IA TBA
01/04/2017 (Wed) Penn State Ann Arbor, MI 8:30 p.m.
01/07/2017 (Sat) Maryland Ann Arbor, MI 3:15 p.m.
01/11/2017 (Wed) Illinois Champaign, IL 9:00 p.m.
01/14/2017 (Sat) Nebraska Ann Arbor, MI 2:00 p.m.
01/17/2017 (Tue) Wisconsin Madison, WI 9:00 p.m.
01/21/2017 (Sat) Illinois Ann Arbor, MI 2:15 p.m.
01/26/2017 (Thu) Indiana Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
01/29/2017 (Sun) Michigan State East Lansing, MI 1:00 p.m.
02/04/2017 (Sat) Ohio State Ann Arbor, MI 6:00 p.m.
02/07/2017 (Tue) Michigan State Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
02/12/2017 (Sun) Indiana Bloomington, IN 1:00 p.m.
02/16/2017 (Thu) Wisconsin Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
02/19/2017 (Sun) Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 1:00/TBA p.m.
02/22/2017 (Wed) Rutgers Piscataway, NJ 6:30 p.m.
02/25/2017 (Sat) Purdue Ann Arbor, MI TBA
03/01/2017 (Wed) Northwestern Evanston, IL 7:00 p.m.
03/05/2017 (Sun) Nebraska Lincoln, NE 8:00 p.m.
Big Ten Tournament
03/08/2017 (Wed) Opening Round Washington, DC TBA
03/09/2017 (Thu) 1st Round Washington, DC TBA
03/10/2017 (Fri) 2nd Round Washington, DC TBA
03/11/2017 (Sat) Semifinals Washington, DC 1:00/3:30 p.m.
03/12/2017 (Sun) Championship Washington, DC 3:30 p.m.

Some comments on the schedule:

  • All three of the other teams (Marquette, Pittsburgh, and SMU) in the 2K Classic are good. It will be a challenging tournament.
  • Playing at South Carolina is going to be a tough game.
  • Michigan stands a good chance against Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
  • The home game against Texas is the best home non-conference opponent.
  • The game at UCLA will be a big challenge.
  • The rest of the non-conference opponents are cupcakes.
  • The toughest stretch in the Big Ten schedule is the Indiana (home), Michigan State (away), Ohio State (home), Michigan State (home), Indiana (away), Wisconsin (home) section. If Michigan can go 3-3 for those 6 games, they should be in good shape.
  • Each Big Ten team plays 8 teams once and 5 teams twice, for a total of 18 games. This season, Michigan plays:
    • Once: Iowa (away), Penn State (home), Maryland (home), Ohio State (home), Minnesota (away), Rutgers (away), Purdue (home), Northwestern (away).
    • Twice: Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State.

Expectations

I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):

  • Should Win (13) – Howard, UIPUI, Mount St. Mary’s, Kennesaw State, Central Arkansas, Maryland Eastern Shore, Furman, Penn State, Nebraska (both), Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern.
  • Should Lose (6) – UCLA, Iowa, Wisconsin (away), Michigan State (both), Indiana (away).
  • Toss Up (12) – Marquette, 2nd round 2K Classic, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Texas, Maryland, Illinois (both), Indiana (home), Ohio State, Wisconsin (home), Purdue.

If UM can win all 13 of the “Should Win” games, and half of the 12 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 19-12 (9-9 in the Big Ten).  That might be good enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.

This Week

As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is Friday (11/04/2016, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Armstrong State.  Michigan legend Cazzie Russell is one of the assistant coaches for Armstrong State, which is why Michigan is playing them. Of course, UM will win handily and get to try all kinds of combinations of players out there.  Come on down to Crisler Arena to check out this season’s edition of Michigan Basketball, and stop by sections 209/210 to say hi.

Go Blue!

 

M FOOTBALL 2016: THE WOLVERINES ROLLED OVER SPARTANS IN EAST LANSING, 32-23.

2016-illinois-038Saturday the second ranked University of Michigan Football Wolverines convened their offense, defense, and special teams at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, confident that they would prove superior in all phases of the game, and win, which they did. This was in spite of Wolverine ownership of a three game losing streak to the Green Meanies, plus seven Wolverine losses in their last eight games with the Spartans prior to Saturday. MSU never gave up when behind and kept gnawing at the Wolverine lead even into late in the 4th quarter. With a second left, an errant option pitch on an attempted two point conversion went errant, was picked up by Jabrill, and returned over 90-yards to the opposite end zone for 2 points.

The fate of Sparty fortunes in this game and maybe in this season  were sealed forever. The Peppers long run for two run still was a stunning way to end the game.

SPEIGHT AND DARBOH FUELED OUTSTANDING OFFENSE ALONG WITH THE RUNNING BACKS.: While the M offense was not thought to be as elite as the defense, it had proved solid with at least 4 healthy and capable running backs, an efficient if developing QB, and an offensive line that, while patched together, was on the verge of enabling a record number of M TDs via infantry.

Saturday, a successful ground game gave them outstanding play action, and an outstanding cadre of receivers gave them an aerial threat. The offense was simply outstanding, and in the first quarter they outplayed the defense. They scored in each of their first five possessions. Wilton Speight was outstanding. It was probably his best day at the helm. While he did throw an interception, he established a downfield connection that paid off all game. He threw 25 times and completed 16 for 244 yards, and ran once for 5. He pitched a long of 43-yards to Darboh. On the other end of most of Speight’s passing game, Darboh had a career day, receiving 8 passes for 165-yards with a long of 43. He had a spectacular one armed reception, and nabbed some other difficult balls . It is ironic that not a single Wilton throw or Darboh snag went for a TD, but they enabled scores. The same thing happened to Jake Butt. His TD effort was ruled short, but it was an outstanding effort.

More than 6 backs ran it effectively. D. Smith was running at his best, his trademark tough runs. He ran for two TDs on 11 for 40-yards. Eddie McDoom ran twice for 53 yards, Karan Higdon had 10 for 44, Peppers 5 for 29 and a TD, Hill was 4 for 8, and Isaac ran 7 times for 16-yards, The position group gained 192-yards on 46 carries, averaging 4.6-yards a carry.

THE MICHIGAN FAN MINDSET FOR THIS SEASON EVOLVED: Pre-game, the Wolverine defense ranked first in a convincing number of NCAA categories. After seven games, the Wolverine defense had proved elite, and many Michigan fans thought that would extend through Saturday, or at least hoped that it would. Some went from doubt to supreme confidence in a blow out in warp speed.

All year many M fans, including me, had marked the Michigan State game as the season’s first true litmus test of Wolverine worth, and this magnified when the Spartans whipped Notre Dame at Notre Dame. As both the Spartans and Notre Dame accumulated losses, the Spartans seemed more vulnerable. And with the Wolverines spanking its opposition through seven prior games, MSU seemed even more vulnerable.  Most, if not all, all fans wanted a blowout, a little revenge for last year’s 10- second gaffe.

STATE PLAYED HARD, TOO, BUT THEY WERE OVERMATCHED: Michigan State made it a game from time to time, but never led except after their first possession of the game. They played hard, but could not score from inside the ten yard line multiple times. At a critical time in the game MSU ran four times, starting at the four-yard line, and failed. The Wolverines held. For much of the game State’s  passing game was a shambles tosay the least, but it became somewhat effective in the 4th quarter with a switch in QBs.

While bragging rights and recruiting profiles are important, and revenge is great motivator, most importantly, this was a big win which eliminated another hurdle to the Wolverines playing in their first Big Ten East Championship game. That remains this team’s most important goal.  This win preserved a shot at a spot in the BTCG.

Position groups that were elite for the Spartans of the past few seasons are diminished in talent and depth this year, including QB. They had three ailing QBs after the game, two courtesy of the M defense. The Spartans desperately needed to end their skid now, and played like it. What better opportunity for them to right their season’s trajectory in the opportunity presented to pummel arch rival Michigan Saturday.

The difference wasn’t all injuries even though MSU had had plenty of them this season. Recruiting has to play a part too. The talent level has swung in the Wolverine’s direction.

WHY THE SPARTANS ANNUALLY TARGET THE WOLVERINES WITH FERVENT FEROCITY EVEN IN A SO-SO SEASON. IT IS STILL “THE GAME” TO THE SPARTANS. Some Spartan fans are obsessed with the Wolverines. Some habitually troll Michigan pages. Do you spend a lot of time trolling Spartan pages? I thought not. They constantly compare to Michigan. Whether the comparison is true or a not, and whether it is comparable or not seems to make no difference . They must feel that makes whatever it was excusable somehow, or think it deflects some of the derogatory mud tossed at their team in the direction of Ann Arbor, too.

Why all this interest? Is it because they have so often been the shadow of the University of Michigan and its academic and athletic reputations? M was founded first, was a University when MSU was still Michigan Agricultural College, had professional schools like Law, and Medicine, and Dentistry (no dental school at MSU yet) long before MSU. MSU was still teaching the plow long after M was teaching the law, medicine, and dentistry. Michigan was a long time Big Ten member before MSU. It is true M opposed their admittance in the early 1950’s when that came about, much to the eternal disgust of Spartans.

A 55-7 Wolverine threshing in 1947 fueled MSU passions in the late forties, and beyond for years.
They have had pockets of football success, under Coach Clarence L. “Biggie” Munn, and Hugh “Duffie” Daugherty. Daugherty won a couple of National Championships. He was the longest serving coach of Spartan Football. Beloved by the press, Duffy was a quipster. He was alleged to have introduced a new QB by extolling the QBs mental capacity, and stating that his new QB was ambidextrous, then adding that the kid can throw with either hand. Their current Coach, Mark D’Antonio has brought MSU Football back from the abyss in the last decade, again to a level of serious success.
Mike Hart caused considerable stir among Spartan advocates as he irritated them with his “Little Brother” statement. The response to that message was as if someone had whacked the MSU fan base hard on their collective elbows. They were provoked. Their pot boiled. It even provoked their current coach to answer Hart’s trash talk with trash talk, which is an unusual situation. MSU Coach Happy is also alleged to have to have said, after one particularly rough manhandling of the Wolverines in a previous game, that the game was sixty minutes of un-necessary roughness. This boiled M’s pot. He also stated he hated Michigan at his public introduction to the Spartan nation knowing the words would be appreciated there. The Spartans are always angling for a chip on their shoulder to be cashed in against those hated Wolverines.

This year the chip was firmly glued to the Wolverine’s shoulder. Michigan accomplishments over a long span have given the Spartans a David and Goliath mentality, and has put a permanent chip on their shoulder, a penchant for underdog status. There is no question MSU has made much progress over the 70 years I have been following M v MSU, both in athletics and academics, but there is only one University of Michigan.

This game always provides a battle, a tough competition for both Michigan and Michigan State, and will into the future. It will not, however, ever be “the Game” on the Michigan side of the ledger. That honor belongs to TOSU.

COUNTING ONE’S CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH IS A CARELESS BUSINESS FOR THIS GAME: The two programs have met every season since 1945, and this was their 109th meeting. I have paid serious attention to the game since the late 1940’s. Except for a few years away in the service, I have followed it intensively. The wisest prediction is that usually it will be a close game, even into the fourth quarter, no many how much fans we fervently wish otherwise. Many fans, including me, this year believed it would be a blowout, but again the usual is close, and hard fought. While not exactly a blow out, this victory was solid and convincing. It is always a fight, and was again this year, even if the Wolverines dominated most of the game.

M v MSU: M won the toss and elected to defer. Much to my amazement the Spartans moved the bell easily on the ground and using over seven minutes in a 12 play, 75-yard drive on their first series. LJ Scott was the MSU player of the game and he had ten carries in this drive for 63 yards, He had 139 on the ground, a TD, and caught two passes for 47. The Spartans were up 7, and I was thinking Colorado.

Wilton Speight took charge of a drive that answered, as the Wolverines went 80-yards on 8 plays. Smith and Isaac ran for a combined 27. Eddie Mc Doom scooted around end for 20. A Smith run and a Darboh catch put it at the 3. Jabrill Peppers was at QB and ran it in, touching the nose of the football to the southwest pylon for six, and it was 7 up. It was a relief to learn the offense could move the ball.

The Wolverines struck again. It was Eddie McDoom again running outside on a reverse from Peppers for 33-yards to the MSU 38. Minutes later, Jake Butt caught a 26-yarder that was ruled down at the two, and Smith ran 1-yard for the TD. M was up 14-7.

MSU could only answer with a 52-yard FG, and it was 14-10.
M’s Kenny Allen replied after a drive stalled with a 23-yard FG, and it was 17-10.M’s next possession saw the Wolverines move 10 plays, and 42-yards for 6. A Peppers 15-yard run, a ten yard pass to Darboh, and a six-yard pass to Chesson, plus an MSU penalty were among the plays that put Smith in position to score from 5-yards out. Now it was 24-10.

Jourdan Lewis made his best play of the game resulting in an interception at the MSU 29 in the waning moments of the half. Speight hit Darboh for 20-yards but a penalty against the Wolverines stalled the drive and an Allen FG of 23-yards ensued. The half ended with the Wolverines ahead 27 to 10.

It seemed that all was rosy with the Wolverines receiving the second half kickoff, but a Speight mistake resulted in an interception that was returned 42-yards. The defense stood tall. MSU’s Scott rushed four times, and had some negative yardage on a couple of attempts, including his last one. That snap was on the M two, and Scott lost two, and the Wolverines had held in a great goal line stand. Peppers cut Scott’s legs out from under him.

The Wolverines did not score in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter MSU missed a FG. But Kenny Allen hit a 45-yarder and the score was M-30, MSU-10.

Brian Lewerke was the Spartan QB as Tyler O’Connor had been pulled and was gimpy. Lewerke started to complete some passes, the big one being to RJ Shelton for 34-yards to the Michigan 20. He then threw a 20-yard TD to Monty Madaris, and it was an uncomfortable 30 to 17.
The M offense could not move the ball and MSU got it at their 15, but an 8-yard Peppers sack solves that problem, and forced a punt.

The Spartans were not done as a Michigan penalty assisted another MSU score. Spartan QB Lewerke fired a 5-yard TD pass to MSU wide out Freshman Corley, but the two point conversion failed, when the balll was on the turf, and was returned into the end zone by Peppers for two points. The game ended in Michigan’s favor 32 to 23.

This was a solid victory against very jacked up MSU team. They called up the best they had and it was not quite good enough, despite all their sound and fury. This time their very season was at stake.

Is it appropriate to say the Terrapins are roaring into Ann Arbor next week? Anyway, they are the next impediment to the next step up the Wolverines ladder of success, and under the tutelage of DJ Durkin they will be primed with solid knowledge of Michigan’s tendencies.

Welcome home Paul Bunyon.

Go Blue!

Michigan vs Michigan State Football – Looking Back – 1989

The third installment of the Michigan-Michigan State series takes us back to 1989. It was Bo Schembechler’s last season as Michigan head coach, and it began with a loss to Notre Dame and ended with a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl. Sandwiched in between those losses were 10 victories, marked by old school, Schembechler power football. The game against Michigan State was no different, and the 10-7 score is evidence of the hard-nosed, helmet-rattling sort of football that Bo loved.

One of the challenges for the Maize & Blue was that George Perles, who had made his name as the defensive line coach for the great Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the 1970s, coached the 1989 Michigan State team. The game pitted a veteran offensive line guru (Bo) vs. a veteran defensive line guru, in Perles. As you can guess, style points didn’t matter in that sort of game, and it meant that every detail became that much more important. Michigan blocked a field goal, and the Michigan running game finally got rolling when Tony Boles used his shiftiness to loosen up the Spartan defense. Still, the Michigan State defense stiffened after Michigan got a first down at the Spartan 4-yard line. Suddenly, Michigan was facing 4th down and goal to go inside the State 1 yard line. With the Wolverines lined up in a wishbone formation, Leroy Hoard got the ball and burst through a hole on the right side of the offensive line to give Michigan a hard-earned lead. Michigan continued to alternate between Hoard and Boles, and the Wolverines’ offensive line began to push the Spartans back consistently, setting up a 35-yard field goal by J.D. Carlson.

In the fourth quarter, State threatened to put a green tint on the game, but the Michigan defense wasn’t having any of it. Tripp Welborne stopped Blake Ezor at the goal line, as Michigan completed a classic goal line stand. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Spartan QB Hyland Hickson found Courtney Hawkins just over the goal line, and Michigan’s lead was trimmed to three points. With seconds remaining, the Michigan defense stood tall, as Lance Dottin intercepted a pass by Dan Enos to foil the final Spartan threat.

The win capped a 17-4 lifetime record for Bo against the Spartans. Not bad for a coach who lost his inaugural game in the rivalry.

Thanks to youtube poster WolverineHistorian and ABC Sports for the broadcast clip. As always, I own nothing and this is presented strictly for the enjoyment of our readers.

Michigan vs Michigan State Football – Looking Back – 2008

The second installment of the Michigan-Michigan State series takes us to 2008. For the preceding 39 seasons, Michigan had been coached by descendants of the Bo Schembechler coaching tree, and those coaches produced fairly consistent success, including one perfect season, one national championship, 20 seasons in which Michigan won or tied for the Big Ten championship, and last but not least, pretty consistent success against Michigan State, with the Wolverines winning 30 of the previous 39 games. This produced an expectation of success against the Spartans.

All of that changed in 2008. Having been befuddled on several occasions by coaches who ran the spread offense, Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez, a spread guru, as its new head coach. Both sides will debate the reasons, but the Rodriguez regime didn’t produce the results that Michigan fans and alumni were anticipating. Conversely, Michigan State chose the opposite path, and had hired Mark Dantonio as its head coach the year before. Dantonio brought a basic I-formation offense back to Michigan State, and his focus on the power running game probably should have concerned Michigan from the outset. In 2007, Michigan defeated Michigan State with a classic comeback victory, prompting an exchange of comments in the media between Michigan running back Mike Hart and Dantonio. The rivalry probably would have experienced a shift at that point anyway, but Hart’s comments probably didn’t help matters.

Once the game started, it featured an interesting call, which is consistent with many of the games in this series. Running back Brandon Minor caught a pass and got his foot on a pylon, but it was initially ruled incomplete. After a review, the play was ruled a touchdown, which the network broadcast later said was incorrect. Ultimately, it didn’t matter much. Michigan State seized control the game in the final quarter, and came away with a 35-21 win, signaling the beginning of a Spartan green trend in the series.

Sadly, Rich Rodriguez never did figure out how to win in this series.