Despite the tough loss against the Iowa Hawkeyes and having key injuries occur, the Wolverines are still in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship and more importantly still in control for a national title after three of the top five teams crumbled this past weekend. However, Michigan suffered their first loss which has left no room for error and must win out, possibly without their starting quarterback.
Kinnick Stadium was everything that we expected. It was very possible that they could have lost. But no one expected that they would be handed their first lost in Iowa City. Some even thought that it was our “first tough” road game (apparently playing in East Lansing is no big deal). With it being a night game, the underperforming Hawkeyes, who started 17th in the preseason AP poll rankings, played like they had nothing to lose and insisted to ruin our season with a last second field goal. After the game, senior captains defensive end Chris Wormley and John Mackey Award semifinalist Jake Butt greeted the media in disbelief but remained hopeful for the remainder of the season.
“When it comes down to it, we didn’t make the plays we needed,” Wormley said. “Plain and simple, they made more plays than us. A few things went their way. Looking at today, we’ll look back at the film, see what we did wrong, see what we did right. Figure out those things. But at the end of the day that we lost.”
“We left a lot of opportunities, a lot of plays out on the field today,” Butt said. “There were some big plays we left out on the field. We’re just going to have to look in the mirror, look at the film, and become better because of this. There’s really no excuse. There’s absolutely no excuse. We’ve got to be a lot better than we were today.”
Harbaugh stressed to the team after the game that it’s not over yet and that their goals are still ahead of them.
“Just keep going,” Wormley said. “We’ve got two more games left. We win those two, we’re right where we need to be. Just got to get those done. There’s a lot of things we left out there, a lot of things we could have done better. We’ll watch the film and continue to keep working.”
The fourth quarter was an absolute mess for the Wolverines’. Not only could they uncharacteristically stop the run but they would suffer multiple injuries as well. One being the heart of the secondary, Delano Hill who left the game with an undisclosed injury. Both Channing Stribling and Wilton Speight also injured their shoulders. It appears that Striblings’ injury is nothing too serious to be worried about but Speights’ shoulder has me a little concerned regarding the rest of the season.
There have been non-stop rumors of him being questionable for the Wolverines final home game against Indiana to him being declared out for the season. But Harbaugh is denying anything that is circulating around and currently saying that “its day-to-day thing right now”. We may not even know till the afternoon kickoff if he’s even able to play or not. To be honest, it’s sounding a lot like his decision when he announced the season starter before the opening game against Hawaii.
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) November 14, 2016
If Speight is out for this week, John O’Korn is likely to step in and showcase as to why he should’ve gotten the call as the starter. So, who the hell is O’Korn?
O’Korn started his freshman year at Houston, passing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013 while leading the Cougars to an 8-5 record on the year. Even though his first year went well, his sophomore year didn’t go as planned. O’Korn then lost the job to Greg Ward Jr. after a 2-3 start his sophomore year. Houston would go 6-2 the rest of the way as O’Korn watched from the sideline. He then transferred to Michigan and had to sit out a year due his transfer which was made official in February of 2015.
— JOK (@JohnOKorn) February 5, 2015
Many people had believed that O’Korn might have been the better option for his ability to scramble out of the pocket and make big plays down the field. Quite frankly there is an argument for that case. O ‘Korn is a pro-style quarterback who fits the Michigan system better than the spread at Houston. But Harbaugh knows his quarterbacks and it obviously showed what separated the two QBs’ apart as Speight progressed every game and led the team to a 9-0 record before falling to Iowa.
“He watches film after practice probably more than anybody I have seen at the college level, which is weird for someone who isn’t asked to play as much as he does (because) he’s not the starter,” U-M co-captain Chris Wormley said Tuesday night after practice. “I guess doing that for the past 2-3 months, it’s going to help him out big-time, starting Saturday.”
It’s frightening to know that it is November and a new quarterback may be taking over the helm with two of the most important games remaining on the schedule. O’Korn is a hard worker and by the sounds of it has been waiting for his opportunity to come knocking at the door. He doesn’t have to play great this weekend. He must be consistent, smart and protect the football. If his teammates believe in him, so should we.
The mood amongst the large gathering of Michigan fans who made the trip to Iowa City was one of concern and annoyance. I spent a large portion of the night looking at others in Maize and Blue shaking my head in disbelief. Iowa’s only viable path for winning a game against a vastly superior Wolverine squad was unfolding in front of our eyes. The evening turned on a punt, which had to be Kirk Ferentz’s dream scenario. Late in the first half Ron Coluzzi pinned Michigan at their 1 yard line. Two plays later a ridiculous safety turned an annoying 10-0 lead into a contest. Iowa then scored again to make the score 10-8 at halftime. Ferentz and his Hawkeyes had the exact game they needed: a slop fest.
The Iowa offense put up 9 points through 58 minutes of play. Michigan’s lead was just two at that juncture thanks to the offense’s worst outing of the year. Speight had uncharacteristically misfired on one open deep shot after another, any of which would’ve sealed the game. Chris Evans averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 8 touches, but was noticeably absent in the final drives of the game. In spite of the offensive struggles, Michigan’s defense made the play that should have closed out the game. Taco Charlton hit CJ Beathard as he released a deep pass and Channing Stribling intercepted the under thrown ball on Michigan’s 16 yard line. With 1:54 left in the game, Michigan’s offense trotted on to the field 10 yards away from pulling out a win on the road and headed to 10-0. They were just 10 yards away.
This team had been in this position before. Against Michigan State in 2015, the Michigan defense came up with a huge stop and the offense took over with 1:47 on the clock. Again, 10 yards away from sealing a win. Twice in the last two seasons the team has failed to pick up 10 yards when it truly mattered to seal a football game. Understand that many many factors contributed to this loss and this is not to short change any of them. BUT, despite the poor offensive play and the truly appalling officiating the Wolverines had the ball and the lead with under two minutes to go. Victory was in their grasp and it slipped away.
The Final Offensive Series
Let’s take a look at that final offensive series starting with 1st and 10 on the Michigan 16 yard line.
Eddie McDoom is circled and DeVeon Smith is the RB. Desmond King (#14) and Bo Bower (#41) call out the formation and the defensive backfield adjusts for the sweep. Based on how this play unfolded it wouldn’t have mattered which running back (Smith, Higdon, Evans, or Isaac) was receiving the carry. Here’s why:
McDoom motions across the formation like a jet sweep. Iowa’s defense responds to this by doing the exact opposite of what we’ve seen in previous weeks. The corner responsible for McDoom does not go flying across the formation in pursuit and the linebackers do not shift at all. Instead, the safety comes up to take McDoom and everyone else stays home.
If McDoom gets the ball I think there is a decent chance he gets the corner. Instead Smith is plowing into two unblocked linebackers and King. Any yardage gained here is a miracle as four offensive players are blocking against seven defenders.
Topics include Jabrill Peppers, Wilton Speight’s Heisman potential, and a play that offended Harbaugh’s football sensibilities.
Saturday 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.