The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played three games last week, and they lost one and won the next two. On Wednesday (11/25/2015), UM lost to (#18) Connecticut 74-60, then on Thursday (11/26/2015), UM beat Charlotte 102-47, and finally on Friday (11/27/2015), UM beat Texas 78-72. All three games were played in Nassau (Bahamas), in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Michigan came in 5th. Whoopee! The loss and wins leave Michigan with a record of 4-2.
The UConn game looked at lot like the disastrous Xavier game from last week: UConn exploited UM’s weak interior defense, and just overpowered UM. It started out OK, with UM playing pretty well, and opening up a nice 7-point lead (12-5) with 14:31 left in the 1st half, when the roof fell in. UConn went on a 19-4 run to go up by 8 (24-16) with 5:27 left, and pushed the lead up to 14 (36-22) at halftime. Yes, UM only scored 10 points in the last 14:31 of the 1st half. They shot 24%. It was ugly. The 2nd half was a little better, since UM played UConn even, but that meant a 14-point loss. The UConn lead got as high as 19 points (52-33) with 10:00 left in the game, but Michigan fought back, got as close as 8 points a few times, but never got any closer.
The bad part about playing in a 3-day, 8-team tournament is that you have to play 3 games in 3 days. The good part is that you don’t have time to dwell on a loss, you have to get ready for another game. Michigan looked lost in the UConn game, but they found themselves in the 2nd game, against Charlotte. Now, Charlotte is not a very good team, but the way UM throttled them is impressive, no matter who the opponent is. The margin of victory (55 points) is the highest for Michigan in 70 years. The 102 points they scored is a tournament record. It was quite a game. It was almost over at halftime, when UM led 44-22, and it was certainly over just 2:30 into the 2nd half, when UM went on 10-2 run to make it a 30-point lead (54-24). The last 17:30 was “mop up” time.
I was worried that UM might come out flat and tired in the 3rd and final game, vs. Texas, but they played well for the whole game. Texas is a quality opponent, and UM handled them. Michigan never trailed, and jumped out to another 12-5 lead, with 14:15 left in the 1st half. This time, they built on it, instead of letting their opponent back into the game. They got the lead up to 10 (25-15) with 10:11 left, and 12 points (44-32) at halftime. The lead stayed around 12 points for most of the 2nd half, although Texas did get as close as 1 point (67-66) with 4:26 to go. Michigan outscored them 11-6 down the stretch, and won solidly.
So, did we learn anything about this season’s UM team this week? We sure did. We learned that they’re not going to just give up when the going gets tough. They lost 2 miserable games in a row (Xavier and UConn), but they bounced back very nicely against Charlotte and Texas. They’ve still got a lot of work to do, and a lot of things to figure out, but they’re headed in the right direction. Do I think they could beat Xavier or UConn yet if they had another chance? No, not yet, but they have the players to get there by the end of the season.
The stats for the UConn game are horrible, the worst in a while. UM shot terribly overall (18-for-56 = 32.1%), they shot terribly from 3-point range (8-for-29 = 27.6%), but at least they shot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%). They got hammered on the boards (42-31), but they did win the turnover battle (9-12). Since UConn shot 50% overall, and 40% from 3-point range, 32%/28% just won’t make it.
The stats for the Charlotte game are very good. It’s hard to believe that this is the same team as the one that stunk up the joint against UConn. UM shot very well overall (39-for-63 = 61.9%), they shot 3-pointers very well (12-for-23 = 52.2%), and they shot free throws very well (12-for-14 = 85.7%). They crushed Charlotte on the boards (44-27), and they won the turnover battle (8-10). It was a dominating performance.
Finally, the stats for the Texas game are almost as good as the Charlotte stats. UM shot very well again overall (29-for-50 = 58.0%), they shot incredibly well from 3-point range (14-for-25 = 56.0%), but they shot free throws pretty poorly (6-for-12 = 50.0%). They won the rebounding battle (31-27), but lost the turnover battle (13-10). Keep in mind that the new Texas coach this season is Shaka Smart, who designed Virginia Commonwealth’s “Havoc” defense. Well, Michigan crushed VCU in the NCAA Tournament in 2013, and they handled the Texas version of “havoc” pretty well this season. 13 turnovers isn’t too bad.
For this tournament, Coach Beilein changed the starting lineup, starting Ricky Doyle instead of Mark Donnal. The other 4 starters were Aubrey Dawkins, Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton Jr. Of the starters, only LeVert scored in double figures for all 3 games, with 21 vs. UConn, 13 in the Charlotte game, and 19 vs. Texas. Irvin (2, 12, and 13 points) and Walton (10, 8, and 13 points) both hit double figures in 2 of the 3 games. Dawkins hit double figures in one game (8, 10, and 6 points), and Doyle didn’t score much (5, 6, and 0 points).
A couple of the bench players hit double figures in one game. Moritz Wagner was the star of the Charlotte game, with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting. He had 0 points in the UConn game, but he chipped in 7 points vs. Texas. Duncan Robinson had a great game vs. Texas, scoring 14 points, after scoring 5 vs. UConn and 9 vs. Charlotte.
The rest of the bench chipped in some points: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 4, 4, and 0, Kameron Chatman had 0, 6, and 0, Donnal didn’t play in the UConn game, and had 7 and 4 in the other 2 games, and DJ Wilson had 5, 8, and 2 points.
Spike Albrecht played in the UConn and Charlotte games, but didn’t score. He didn’t play in the Texas game. He is clearly not recovered from his double hip surgery, and isn’t playing well at all. I have no idea if or when he’ll be back to his old playing form.
This week, Michigan plays two games. On Tuesday (12/01/2015, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2), they play at North Carolina State, then on Saturday (12/05/2015, 2:00 p.m., ESPNU), they play Houston Baptist in Crisler Arena. The game vs. N.C. State is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and should be, well, a challenge. Houston Baptist is a cupcake that Michigan has snacked on in the recent past. They will be no challenge.
Tune by to see how Michigan does vs. N.C. State, and come by Crisler for the Houston Baptist game. In any case, check back next week to see what happened, and why.
Cunningly disguised as THE Ohio State Football team, the Buckzillas blathered into the civilized confines of Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium, along with their usual horde of protagonists, as they have in all the uneven years since 1918.
Vocal as always, many of the garishly bedecked crowd in Scarlet and Drab (oops, Grey), seemed to waft in on an aroma of spiritus fermenti. As always, all were in high spirits. While I wanted to add “At least before the game”, the Buckeyes had every right to remain that way after the game as well.
They won the day, as the Wolverines needed to run play action passing, but were minus a running game. Michigan also needed to protect Jake Ruddock, but failed miserably at times. Another ouch was the inability of the defense to stop the run or protect the red zone. Coupled with a no run offense, they could command no run defense. OSU piled up 369 net yards rushing for a 6.8 average per carry, and 5 TDs, as opposed to 57 net yards rushing by the Wolverines, and a lone TD. OSU’s RB Elliot had 30-carries for 214-yards, 2 TDs, and a 7.1 average per carry. Giving a D minus grade for Saturday’s rush defense would be grading this effort too high. All in all, it was the Wolverine’s worst outing, and resulted in their worst beating of the season.
A SHORT COMMENTARY REGARDING THE HISTORY OF “THE GAME”: M and OSU first played in 1897, and the game has been an annual competition since 1918. Memorable moments have originated in each subsequent era.
The game caught the attention of the sporting world for a number of reasons. Hard hitting games usually displayed well played and coached football, often with possible Big Ten championships at stake, and sometimes high national ranking against high national ranking. Also, sometimes with undefeated records at stake as in 1993, 1995 and 1996, when the Wolverines ruined OSU perfection.
These games decided the Big Ten title 27 times, and so often on the biggest of stages. They feature huge stadiums, and consistent hard edged fan enthusiasm, and these games featured splendid Saturday afternoon spectacle, some elating wins, and some deflating losses. They also featured coaching antics and on field heroics.
Colorful characters like the uniquely talented and quirky OSU Coach Woody Hayes, and the equally volatile and dedicated Wolverine Coach Bo Schembechler added luster to scenes still remembered.
They engineered the so-called Ten Years War. In Bo’s era, nothing irked Bo more than the selection of Ohio State as the Rose Bowl Representative in 1973 after a 10-10 tie, in which Quarterback Dennis Franklin’s injury during the game was cited as the explanatory reason for naming Ohio State. It was not unnoticed by Michigan fans that MSU’s AD Smith had voted for Ohio State.
To really understate it, Coach Hayes had a tendency to over enthusiasm which he could not entirely control. For example, bopping a competitor player during a bowl game cost him his career, and should have. Another less heinous instance, with no consequences but energizing and entertaining Michigan Stadium fans, happened in 1972, in Michigan Stadium.
Woody did not appreciate the officials validating a Michigan interception in a close game. To illustrate his rage, he grabbed the chained yard markers and systematically destroyed them. By so doing he set the Michigan crowd’s enthusiasm afire, and the team sent Billie Taylor into the end zone, for a Wolverine TD and win.
While Woody was not always beloved by Wolverine fans (for example, he went for two in 1968 while leading M by almost 50 points, because he said, he couldn’t go for three). His coaching ability, if not always his demeanor, was always respected. It was tough to accomplish at times, but it never was any more fun to watch a coach lose than it was to watch the volatile Woody Wilson Hayes lose.
The eras since Bo’s remarkable and improbable 1969 win have spawned Heisman trophy winners on both sides. As you undoubtedly remember, the two notables that are most fondly remembered by the Michigan side now are Desmond Howard, who famously struck a striking Heisman pose in the end zone after a stunning long kick return that sealed the Buckeyes fate. Not to be out done another former Ohioan, Charles Woodson, sealed Ohio’s fate in much the same manner, by returning a punt.
These were the two most memorable Michigan moments in my memory, but other performances like Tim Biakabatuka’s over three hundred yard rushing tour de force against the S & G in 1995 shouldn’t be forgotten.
Also, there were other performances before my time, which still shimmer in an aura of greatness. Among them were Tom Harmon’s extraordinary performance in “the Game” in Columbus in the early forties.
Old 98 excelled at nearly all phases of the game, winning over a hostile crowd in Columbus to an audible demonstration of appreciation of his performance. Unexpectedly, he was presented with a great ovation, by some of the toughest critics in the world if you are Maize and Blue, the Buckeye home crowd.
A SHORT 2015 GAME COMMENTERY: Unfortunately last Saturday’s lack of ability to defend its home turf proved that the Wolverines are not yet a finished product in this, Coach Harbaugh’s first year at the helm. He always says there is more work to do and Saturday proved him right.
Last Saturday’s game won’t earn inclusion in any synopsis of M’s great games against OSU, because it truly wasn’t. Still, it must be said it was a hard fought battle on both sides.
The Wolverines punished themselves with foolish and costly penalties. In fact a first quarter roughing the kicker penalty provided OSU a fresh first down after the defense had held them deep, and had forced a Buckeye punt.
It was a bad coaching call, as the kick block failed. The M rusher did not fail to illegally bump the OSU punter, and the stalled Buckeyes were on their way.
Peppers fielding the punt and possibly running it back seems a better option as it could have put the Wolverines deep in OSU territory. Obviously that early gamble did not pay off.
Instead, this penalty was actually the turning point of the game as it advanced the Buckeyes to their 24, ruining the great field position provided by M’s punter Blake O’Neill. Via that gaff, the Bucks turned adversity into advantage as good teams will. The Bucks subsequently drove for their first TD after a 7 play, 94-yard drive in the first quarter.
A 66-yard gallop on that series by OSU’s RB E. Elliot took it to the M 10, also helping turn M’s fortunes the wrong way. Jerrod Wilson put him down at the ten, but red zone greatness was not a facet of this game for the Wolverines. OSU QB J.T Barrett ran it in for six, and the die was cast. The first quarter ended M-0. OSU-7. OSU only had 4 first downs to M’s six in the quarter, but momentum had shifted for good to the Bucks.
In the second quarter, M finally hit a field goal after a 14 play, 72-yard long drive. A false start hurt, and back to back incompletions to Amara Darboh helped cause the stall. There were two or three instances in this game where the usually sure handed Amara was hit in the hands, and dropped the pass.
OSU answered the Michigan FG with another TD. J.T. Barrett rushed for 25-yards, and Braxton Miller rushed for 6 and 3-yards. J T. Barrett rushed for 16 and 7 to the 5, and Elliott broke the plane for 6 on two attempts to complete a 9-play 75-yard drive. M-3. OSU-14.
The hurry up offense bothered the Wolverine’s defensive play, they couldn’t defend the edge and sometimes the middle against the run. This drive was fairly indicative of the Wolverines problematic defense against the run all afternoon.
The Wolverines answered with their lone TD of the afternoon. This was the result of an 11-play 92-yard drive. A 4-yard Smith run and catch of 5-yards got it started. A pass to Peppers got 13. An OSU pass interference call enhanced it, as did a 24-yard reception by Smith.
Chesson, who has shown remarkable development and diversity this season, finished off the drive with a nifty 5-yard catch on a flag route into the front corner of the South end zone on a perfectly thrown Jake Rudock pass. The second quarter and half ended at M-10, OSU-14, and hope began to soar just a little, but fell flat as the second half was an absolute disaster for the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes received, and scored four second half TDs around a single FG by the Wolverines. OSU produced TD drives of 82-yards, 84-yards, 75-yards, and 47-yards as they overwhelmed the Wolverines. M could only answer with that single field goal. The final was M-13, OSU-42.
M could not protect the corners, tackle effectively, consistently pass protect QB Jake Rudock, or stay penalty free. The hurry up tired M’s thin defensive line.
Offensively, in the second half Jake Rudock took more viscous hits, one of which in the third quarter resulted in a Rudock fumble recovered by the Wolverine’s Mason Cole.
Later, in the fourth quarter, Jake Rudock injured a shoulder when sacked again by OSU’s Joey Bosa. His understudy, QB Wilton Speight replaced him, and was ineffective as by now the Bucks had their ears laid back.
I have heard some say the Wolverines quit. I don’t think that is true at all. Both sides were hitting. The Wolverines were simply overwhelmed by superior talent in this game. Talent which was trying to recover from their own worst performance of the season in losing their shot at the championship game against MSU.
THE FUTURE STILL BODES WELL: The fifteen bowl practices will assist the Wolverines. Last year they sat and watched the bowl games on TV like fans. They may not make a New Year’s Day Bowl, but it will be a decent bowl. Iowa, MSU, and OSU have earned spots above them, and might use up all of the New Year’s Day slots, but maybe not.
I do not believe that the 2016 recruiting class will be hampered by this game, and still believe that M will still gather a top ten or better class. This game just shows prospective running backs, linebackers, offensive and defensive lineman, that superior athletes will have a chance of playing early at Michigan.
Harbaugh and his staff will use freshman early, and will coach them up. The team needs speed at many positions including running back, and linebacker, and else where, and they need play makers every where.
Saturday’s loss was a nasty one, the worst of the season, a big fan disappointment. It proved that the talent gap with the best teams in the league is still a problem. Even so, the improvement over last season is obvious even if there is more work to be done. The coaching has been good overall.
Special teams are an enigma. They have often helped win this season, and have been superior in many respects, but in the two games that have counted most, special teams errors have helped roadblock wins. Go figure.
Player development is illustrated by the progress of 5th year graduate QB Jake Rudock. His acquisition showed remarkable foresight on Harbaugh’s part, and his development over the course of the season has been remarkable.
When, in about the middle of the season, M switched to more passing than rushing because of necessity, Jake was totally up to the task to the surprise of many fans after a rough time connecting downfield at first.
Another QB has been added to Harbaugh’s list of successes. Hopefully Jake will get a chance in the bowl game, if his shoulder permits.
This coaching team has been mostly remarkable. Nine and three for the regular season shows a vast improvement.
M Football will only get better.
The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1986. The national economy was booming, the Mets won an absolute classic of a World Series, President Ronald Reagan was dealing with the Iran-Contra controversy, and Microsoft Corporation issued its initial public offering of shares. In college football, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh guaranteed that his team would beat archrival Ohio State. Guaranteed.
The history of sports guarantees has been checkered over the years. Joe Namath made his legend when the New York Jets fulfilled his guarantee of victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but Patrick Ewing guaranteed that his New York Knicks would defeat numerous opponents, and his guarantees almost always fell flat on their face. So when Harbaugh guaranteed a Michigan victory in “The Game”, it grabbed sports headlines with the subtle attraction of a magnet. Harbaugh’s guarantee assured only one thing: Either his legend would be defined, or he would look like a fool.
As it turns out, he came very close to looking like a fool. Fortunately for Harbaugh and all the Maize & Blue faithful, the Michigan defense had his back, particularly when it counted most. With Ohio State driving in the final minutes, Buckeye quarterback Jim Karsatos threw a long pass for the end zone, and had a man open, but Michigan safety Ivan Hicks got his hand on the ball and knocked it away. Then, on a third down, Karsatos connected with Cris Carter, who headed for the first down marker, but was tackled a little more than two yards shy of the first down by Erik Campbell, who went on to became an excellent wide receivers coach. The yardage necessary was more than Ohio State coach Earle Bruce was comfortable with, and he sent out Matt Frantz to try a 45-yard field goal. Almost immediately, Frantz’s kick started to hook, and it veered wide of the goal posts, allowing Michigan to run out the clock for the victory.
Michigan finished the season with an 11-2 record. Oddly, the Wolverines had one regular season game left on the schedule after Ohio State, and they enjoyed their trip to sunny Honolulu, beating Hawaii 27-10. The Rose Bowl wound up being a disappointment, as the Wolverines fell to Arizona State, 22-15. Harbaugh was named to the All-America team, as were Garland Rivers and Jumbo Elliott, an offensive tackle who went on to a tremendous career in the NFL. Ohio State rebounded nicely to top Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 28-12.
This year, as we approach The Game, the atmosphere is more somber. An Ohio State student passed away during the school’s annual student tradition of jumping in Mirror Lake during the week leading up to the Michigan game. Please keep that student’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers. We’d also like to thank the Ohio State and Michigan State football teams, who showed tremendous compassion and support for Chad Carr during his fight against cancer.
Thanks to CBS Sports and youtube poster Wolverine Historian. As always, I own nothing, nobody profits off this blog post, and everything here is done strictly for your enjoyment.