MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-WOLVERINES SLAP DOWN RANKED BADGERS AT HOME 38 TO 13

Since the beginning of this season, Wolverine fans have awaited Saturday evening’s football tussle with the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin.  Many fans believed that they could not measure the Wolverines prior to this Wisconsin game, believing that no prior game, except Notre Dame in the non-conference season opener, was a stern enough test to provide a rational forecast of the quality of this season’s edition of the Wolverines.

While the Wolverines’ prior five football challenges were hard hitting and hotly contested at times, they were mostly against teams that did not field strong offenses directed by QBs that could attack, or that featured bruising offensive lines, plus exceptional defenses.

It was considered before Saturday’s struggle that the Badgers offensive group was better than their defensive group, especially their offensive line, and that proved true.  Still the Badgers had great LBs, and other defensive talent.  They are big and they hit, and they got 3 sacks.

While Notre Dame was a nasty loss, it may prove fortunate to the Wolverines that it was at the very start of the season and not later.  As Notre Dame rises, and the season progresses, that loss loses some sting.

Finally is was Wisconsin, and the meat of the season was put before ravenous Wolverines.  The Wolverines were outstanding on offense and defense. Two missed field goals were the only criticism of the specials teams unit.

THE SEASON’S FIRST SATURDAY JUDGEMENT DAY IS PAST: The first Saturday judgment day for this season is past, and we now have a more authentic bench mark of this year’s Wolverines.  There are more, and tougher hurdles down the pike, but this was the first against one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Without question it was a good test and result. 

Wisconsin could be the master of the West Division of the Big Ten, and it is possible Michigan could meet them again in the Big Ten title game. Maybe not probable, but quite possible.

WOLVERINES PASSED THE FIRST EXTREME CHALLENGE OF THE SEASON AGAINST THE TOUGH, AND TALENTED WISCONSIN BADGERS: The Badgers sauntered into Ann Arbor with a great QB Alec Hornibrook, a great running back Johnathon Taylor, and a tough and experienced offensive line.  RB Johnathon Taylor had pre-game statistics indicating that he had been the most productive back in the country this season. 

He could not live up to that high standard against the Wolverines defense Saturday as he was held to 101-yards on 17 carries.

Wisconsin’s offense faltered as the Badgers made 28 rushing attempts for only 183 net yards. M’s defense held them to them to 100-yards passing for the game and a total of 283-yards.  That is a season low for the Badgers. Seventy-five of those yards came late in the game, in the 4th quarter.

The Wolverines held Badger QB Hornibrook to 7 completions on 20 attempts for 100-yards, 2 interceptions and 1 TD.

It was pointed out by the Badgers before the game in a big banner headline on their athletic site, that under current Badger Head Coach Paul Chryst the Badgers were 15 and 1 in true road games.  Now, courtesy of the Wolverines efforts Saturday, make that 15 and 2.

SHEA PATTERSON RISING:  Patterson provides something the Wolverines have long lacked.  He is a play maker at the QB position.  His 81-yard scamper around left end in the second quarter got the stalled Wolverine offense, that had stalled in the first quarter, going in a spectacular way in the second.  He did get caught as he neared the end zone, but that was a timely and necessary big play.  The offensive play of the game. Shea tossed 14 completions on 21 attempts for 124-yards.  Doesn’t seem like much, but he threw zero interceptions, and used his wheels nine times for 113-yards (90 net), including the 81-yard run, and a TD run.

On the first drive of the game which stalled, Coach Harbaugh played a little bit of a river boat gambler role by inserting Joe Milton on a critical 3rd down.  The fact that Joe was in there must have tipped them to a QB run as he was stuffed for a one-yard loss.

 

In the 4th quarter, Milton had a couple more attempts for 23-yards (net 22), one of which was a 23-run.  Very happy to have him get some prime time game action.  Dylan McCaffery ran once for 44-yards and a TD.

MORE STATISTICS, AND A SALUTE TO HIGDON:  The receivers were productive, but had no TDs.  WR Nico Collins nabbed 4 for 31, with a long of 11.  WR Donovan Peoples-Jones grabbed 3 for 39, and Nick Eubanks one for 28-yards. Evans, Higdon, Martin and Thomas all had a reception.

The Running Backs were led by the Wolverine’s other stunning playmaker, Karan Higdon.  Higdon now has six TDs this season, and had his 5th straight 100-yard rushing game. He toted 19 times for 111 (105 net) yards, with a TD and a long of 25.  Higdon is a play making workhorse. 

Chris Evans had five carries for 18-yards with a long of 6.  It was great to have him back on the field.  Later he will be needed.

Defensively Rashan Gary did not play, but  Carlo Kemp returned after having been nicked last week. 

Wisconsin had 3 sacks, and the Wolverines two.  Josh Metellus led the defense with 5 tackles-3 solos.  Devin Bush and Josh Uche had sacks.  The unit played great again.

HOW THEY SCORED:  The Wolverines decided that they would be a good host to the Badgers and did not score in the first quarter.  The Badgers returned the favor. M-0, W-0.

The second quarter got more exciting as M began a scoring drive.  Patterson scooted down the eastern side line 81-yards from the Michigan 13 where he took the snap. Higdon ran for two and then 3, and it was suddenly M-7, W-0.

Wisconsin immediately answered on a 4-play, 73-yard drive. and the score was 7 up. A Badger 7-yard Patterson sack stalled the drive.  M’s Quinn Nordin hit a 42-yard FG, and the Blue was up three.  M-10, W-7.

On the next drive, Nordin hit another FG, this time from 33-yards as another drive stalled. M-13, W-7. A couple of incomplete passes did the damage.

The first half ended with Michigan leading in all the statistics but the score, because of  two FGs instead of TDs. M had 207 offensive yards, and W had 127.  There was not much consolation in that, or a 6-point, two FG lead at the half. 

The Wolverines received at the half.  They had a couple of short gains and it looked like the drive would stall.  But hopes were renewed when the Wolverines got a holding call, and a first down on the holding call by a Badger name of Wildgoose.  This wild Wildgoose chase resulted in an automatic first down for M.

The Wolverines benefitted from another Badger gaffe, as the Badgers were hit with a personal foul for 15-yards, and the Wolverines were at the Badger 41.  Karan Higdon hauled it 25-yards, Chris Evans got 5, and Shea scored on a 7-yard run.  Shea then threw a laser to Nico Collins in the end zone for the two-point conversion. M-21, W-7.  Things were looking better as the third quarter played out at 21-7.   Wisconsin attempted 7-third down conversions in the quarter and converted 1. The Wolverines had 4 conversions on 12 attempts.

The Wolverines had the ball to start the 4th quarter, and were benefited by another Quinn Nordin FG, this time for 36-yards.  A couple of Karan Higdon runs helped pushed the ball down from the Wisconsin 48 into FG range. M-24, W-7.

Lavert Hill made a great quick snag of a Hornibrook pass and had a 21-yard pick six.  M-31. W-7.

On the next series Tru Wilson had 5 consecutive carries for 24-yards.  Dylan McCaffrey scampered 44-yards for a score and it was suddenly M-38, W-7.

Badger QB Hornibrook passed his way to a final TD and the game ended 38-14.  Much of the Badgers passing yardage came on this, their final series.

TAKEAWAY: This was a great effort and accomplishment on the part of the Wolverines.  They finally nailed a ranked team, and they are on the rise progressing to the heart of the season.  

The style points were not always there in this game, but the results and performance of the Wolverines on both side of the ball was outstanding.  The Wolverines are climbing the Big Ten Ladder by means of constant improvement through working. 

No one can call the Wolverines the not ready for prime time players.  Saturday they were prime time.

The Stadium looked great at night, and was packed with 111, 360 on lookers.  Afterwards, in the traffic, you get to personally experience how many cars that puts on the road, but it is all worth it. Ann Arbor handles the traffic well.

Pregame they honored 20 Offensive Line players that earned letters at Michigan, and later ended up playing professional football, were all BIG Ten or were a Michigan Football team Captain.  A neat touch when you are trying to attract the best offensive linemen possible.

Bring on the always ornery Spartans.  Fresh from their win at Penn State, their swagger will be back. It was quite a victory by the Spartans.  The Wolverines will be ready too.

Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-WOLVERINES DEMOLISH MARYLAND’S TERRAPINS-42 TO 21

 

The Football season is fast progressing. The Wolverines fifth game of the year was played Saturday at home against the Maryland Terrapins.

SLOW FIRST QUARTER START OFFENSIVELY, BUT TOUGH DEFENSE FOR THE GAME:  The Wolverines started slowly again in the First Quarter, starting off with a couple of three and outs, and added a Shea Patterson interception. 

While Michigan fell behind 0-7 in the first quarter, that was not the fault of the defensive unit, but a breakdown of Special Teams KO coverage.

The defense looked crisp against the multiple offensive sets of the Terps. They held the Terps to 42-yards of offense in the first half.  The offense recovered their winning ways in the second quarter, and the defense was outstanding during the half, and for the rest of the game until they let up on the gas in the fourth quarter.   The first quarter ended M-3, MD-7.  The Wolverines offense took control in the second quarter and never looked back.

The much-maligned M offensive line looked improved against the Terps-they are more consistent. At the half the Wolverines had amassed 291-yards to 42 for the Terps for a 17-7 lead. The Wolverines produced 462-yards to the Terps 220-yards for the game. For much of the game, the statistics showed an M dominance not always visible in the scores.

MARYLAND HEAD COACH, AND EX-WOLVERINE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, IS ON FORCED EXTENDED ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE: D.J. Durkin did not Coach the Terrapins Saturday because of the tragic death of a football player in a pre-season “gasser”.  D.J. left the Blue to guide Maryland as its Head Football Coach on January 8, 2015,

Subsequent to the sad and unfortunate death of the Terrapin player, allegations were reported in the press that some Terrapin players averred they were harshly treated by Terrapin Coaches.

It is alleged that Coaches mis-treated the players with foul language, and insults as well as physical torment.  The question as to whether this behavior by the football program, if it indeed existed, constituted appropriate football motivation, or simply abuse.  The issue is being studied before an investigating committee.

Well into the season, Coach Durkin is still missing on the sidelines. Strength Coach Rich Court has been sacked.

It has not been finally determined whether this was appropriate motivation as stated by the coaches, or abuse as stated by some players?  It may be that lawsuits will provide some an answer to that question even after the committee reports, and after the Athletic Department further decide the question.   

This has been a sad situation for Maryland players, coaches, and the families involved.  Also, for the University’s Athletic Department, and the University of Maryland.  And for the Big Ten, and college football in general.    

THE TERRAPINS HAVE PLAYED FAIRLY WELL IN SPITE OF TURMOIL:  Pushing this turmoil into the background for game days as they should, the Terps have played some decent football this season under Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Matt Canada.  He is acting as interim Head Coach.

He has extensive experience coaching at a variety of locations, most recently having been at LSU before Maryland in the same capacity. The Terps had shown a good running attack until Saturday. They have a fleet of smaller, fast and athletic backs, and offensive sets with multiple shifts. D.J. Durkin had recruited well, and they have some talent. They stress the running game, have some speed, and talent. In spite of this, the 15th ranked Wolverines had their number Saturday, but Maryland played hard, and never gave up.  Their Achilles heel is the number of penalties they are awarded.  The complex and multiple offensive sets aggravate this, but targeting, holding and face mask call also hurt them Saturday.

TERPS BEAT RANKED TEXAS IN SEASON OPENER 34-29:    Then they walloped the MAC’s Bowling Green 45-14.  Temple dumped them 35-14.   One wonders how that happened.  Last Saturday they pasted the Minnesota Gophers 42-13.

The Terps have led the conference in third down conversions coming in, but not against the Wolverines. But they did prove their ability  break KO runs for chunks of yardage. Terp Ty Johnson broke contain and streaked 98-yards down the sideline to what used to be called pay-dirt.

THE BIG TEN HAS SPOKEN ON THE PHANTOM HOLDING CALL ON KARAN HIGDON IN EVANSTON: You saw it or heard about it, and now the Big Ten has spoken, commenting: “Sorry, we missed it”.  There is no penalty for officials that miss a call, and no remediation, but just maybe, and it is a huge maybe, they will not do it again.  There was another disputed call Saturday.  In my opinion not as egregious as the one on Higdon, but bad enough.  I have watched the replay several times, and I am still convinced Tru Wilson did not grab with his outstretched arm. There seems to be skinny proof of holding, but the call is the call. It negated a TD.

HOMECOMING IS ALWAYS A BLAST:  There are always the older ex-band members making music and strutting their stuff for one more time.  I used to have many friends among that aggregation, but now they are much younger than I.

Maybe I need a Blast From The Distant Past. No? I hear ya, so I guess not. But before any of you youngsters get too many ideas regarding young age advantage, you must remember that any of us, young or old, at any given time, have never been so old, and will never be that young again. And so it is. An eternal truth we all have to live with, young or old.

SHEA PATTERSON IS LOOKING BETTER EACH SATURDAY THAT HE WEARS HIS WOLVERINE REGALIA:  Patterson had a good day. On the day, he was 19 of 27 for 282-yards, 3 TDs and an interception.  The interception was an ill-advised toss while scrambling, but the rest of his day was highly acceptable.  He again showed an uncanny knack to scramble. and escape.

The other M player with a completed pass was Grant Perry, who threw a 12-yard completion to Sean McKeon.  Grant threw the pass short, thereby avoiding the TD that certainly would have ensued from a better pass, but obviously a12-yard gain is much better than nothing.  The trick play worked.

SOME ADDITIONAL INDIVIDUAL STATS: Receiving-TE Zach Gentry nabbed 7 for 112-yards, with a Long of 31. WR Nico Collins had 1 reception for 51-yards. Ronnie Bell clutched 2 for 24-yards with a long of 22-yards for a most spectacular TD. Peoples-Jones caught one for a nicely executed 34-yard run. The versatile Ben Mason grabbed one for 15-yards early and leaped over a would-be tackler.  On the ground-Karan Higdon carried the load again.  He is a playmaker. He lugged 25 for 106 net yards with a long of 18 and averaged 4.8 per haul.

Tru Wilson is earning his scholarship.  He had some good blocks and takes on bigger players effectively.  He ran 5 for 32 net yards.

HOW THEY SCORED:  As they did last week the Wolverines saved their best for last.  The punted the first two times they had the ball. When they finally put together a scoring drive for a 34-yard FG, the Terps special teams snatched momentum from the Wolverines with a stunning 98-yard TD run. The Terps Ty Johnson is a very talented return man. The First Quarter ended M-3, MD-7.

Patterson was intercepted, but the defense kept fighting, and Shea Patterson produced an 11-play drive for a TD.  This second Quarter Drive was the drive of the game as it put the Wolverines ahead for the first time in the game, and they never trailed again.  A 51-yard pass to Nico Collins, in which he came back for the ball on a splendid reception greased the skids to control the game. Slot Grant Perry’s 12-yard pass Sean McKeon, and the wheels of Karan Higdon on four runs in a row, provided Ben Mason with the opportunity for a 1-yard TD, and he did not disappoint this time. Earlier in the game, the Terps stuffed a stab at a 4th and 1 first down.  It was M-10, MD-7, and the Wolverines were on their way to victory.

The clock only had 16 ticks left in the first half when Shea threw a precise laser to Ronnie Bell.  Bell’s speedy and well-timed crossing pattern in front of a defender bent on catching the pass prevented an interception, as well as got the points. The Terps roughed Shea on the play.  It was 17-7 at the half. The defense was remarkable all game.

The Wolverines received to start the second half. An apparent TD by Donovan Peoples-Jones was cancelled by a block in the back. That was a live ball call.  The Terps were charged with targeting when DJP was whacked in the face after the ball had gone by. That was a dead ball call.  There is some controversy that says the after-play ball spot favored the offending party, the Terps.  Peoples- Jones left the field briefly, but returned to catch a TD later.  Nordin hit a 31-yard TD, and it was M-20, MD-7.

The Terps Ty Johnson received the KO, and it squirted out of his hands, the ball was deep in Terp territory, and the Wolverine defense checked them there. M received the punt at the Terrapins 43.  In the last play of the ensuing drive, Patterson scrambled to the left and threw across his body to Donovan Peoples-Jones who tight-roped the sideline for a 34-yard TD. Along the way he broke two would be tackles, and it was M-27, MD-7.

The Terps answered with a three-yard TD end around.  M-27, MD-14.

The Wolverines answered in with a nine-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with a pass to Jared Wangler.  Last week he caught his first pass, and this week his first TD. Nice to see him getting some chances that he can long remember. Mason split the middle to run for the two-point conversion.  M-35, MD-14.

Then DB Brandon Watson made a dream come true when he intercepted and ran 46-yards into the end zone for a score. M-42, MD-14

The Terps got a late TD to make the final M-42, MD-21.  Near the end of the game Coach Brown had taken his foot off the defensive gas.

TAKE AWAY: Even with a 70-minute rain delay, the player’s footing on the field was acceptable.  I saw a couple of early slips, but the track was fast for most of the game, and the fans did not have to fight heavy rains in their seats.

One of the remarkable aspects of this game was the step up of the second level defensive line to a high level.  DE Rashan Gary did not dress due to a shoulder injury that has plagued him this season, as it needs more rest. DE Kwitty Paye replaced Gary and did a credible job. From Coach Harbaugh’s comments it seems Aubrey Solomon is nearer playing readiness.  Michael Dwumfour was injured (lower leg or foot). Carlo Kemp was dinged later than Dwumfour. Lawrence Marshall replaced them. So far, the next man up concept is working for them.

Offensive line play was better, the defense stalwart.  Higdon has become the guts and glue of the running game.

There was no play more surprising that seeing a big blaster leap over a tackler and keep running with speed.  This is not expected of a road grader who weighs 258 or thereabouts.  FB Ben Mason is a rare athletic talent.

The challengers get bigger, larger, faster, and the wins perhaps more difficult, starting next week with a primetime game against the Cheese heads, err Badgers, as they roll out the barrel in primetime in Michigan Stadium. I think the Wolverines will be ready and seeing Red.

Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018: WOLVERINES THRASH HUSKERS 56-10

Saturday last, the University of Nebraska Football Team came to Michigan Stadium expecting to instruct the Wolverines on how to win a Big Ten Football game. The Wolverines proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had already learned the lesson, besting the Cornhuskers 56 to 10 to open the Big Ten Season.

The Wolverines were ranked 19th in the country and a 19-point favorite.

NEBRASKA IS A WORK IN PROGRESS under new coach Scott Frost.  Frost was well schooled in the art and science of football under famous Husker Head Coach Tom Osborn. Frost campaigned for a share of the National Title Michigan had seemed to secure via a Rose Bowl victory over Washington State in 1997. 

Nebraska Coach Osborne was a very good and famous football coach who was retiring.  The campaign was successful, and the Corn Huskers received a one of the four 1997 National Championship awards, the Wolverines the other three. The Coach’s poll awarded its honor to the Corn Huskers.

Coach Frost couldn’t watch the second half

Frost’s penchant for hyperbole did not make him a favorite among many Michigan fans of the time, and in some sectors more than a hint of this lingers.  Many Michigan fans of the time felt they had the superior team, that the Huskers had played a lesser schedule, and had at least one lucky win. M fans  wanted to see a head to battle between the Wolverines and Huskers, winner take all.  Of course, that never happened.

Frost came to Michigan Stadium a few year ago as the head man of the UCF football program, and left with a 51-14 beating.  After that, his exaggeration was that UCF outhit the Wolverines. Not so.  Coach Harbaugh was asked post game if this was motivation for the Wolverines.   His diplomatic answer was that he did not remember it.

Before the game it was said Nebraska was the best three loss team in America.  Now there is little to say they are the best four loss team in America as Nebraska suffered one of the worst defeats in their football history.

While few if any Wolverines are going to feel sorry for them, in time, they will get off the mat, and provide competition in the future, as Frost is a good coach.

Nebraska QB Adrian Martinize had recovered from a prior injury enough to play. There were questions whether or not he would play in this game, and it was no surprise that he did. As it turned out, it was not one of his better days or for any other Husker QB.

 

GREAT DAY FOR THE M OFFENSE: Shea Patterson was money in the bank again.  He was 15 of 22 for 106-yards and a TD. Dylan McCaffrey got in late in the third quarter, and proved worthy again.   He is now solidly ensconced as the Number Two QB, and his future is looking up.  He had a long, apparent TD run, called back because of a holding call.  I did not know he was that fast.

Dylan was 3 of 8 for 86-yards.  The threw a 56-yard TD catch and carry to Freshman Ronnie Bell.

Brandon Peters got in late in the game and did well.  The M QB room is well stocked.

The offensive line played its best game of the year, giving Karan Higdon a great first half. He toted 12 times for 136-yards and a TD, and absolutely jump started the 1st Quarter offense.  I was in the scrum that heard him after the game, and it appears his athleticism comes from being well muscled.  He can give and take a whack. Even though he has recently been dinged, he looks very durable which is an asset in a running back.

Sophomore Ben Mason, also look durable.  Sometimes used as an H back Saturday, Mason had 6 carries for 3 TDs.  He has a unique appearance, and wears what used to be called a Mohawk haircut. Hair shaved on the sides with a longer strip down the middle.  He looks enough like a tough guy to be realistically cast as one in a Hollywood film. He is by reputation the toughest player on the Wolverine team, and he is a fast-developing offensive asset.

Frosh RBs Tru Wilson, O’Mara Samuels and Christian Turner had a total of 121-yards.  Wilson looked good again.

The Wolverines rushed for 285 net-yards for a 6.3 average. They had 206-yards passing.  This shows good balance. Both Bell and Gentry caught receiving TDs.

M’s DEMOLITION DEFENSE HAD A GREAT DAY, TOO:  Rashan Gary had an outstanding performance early when it really counted.  He had 2 solo tackles, 2 TFLs and 1 sack. Brad Hawkins did well also with 2, 2, and 1.   Chase Winovich matched Hawkins. Winovich had another outstanding game. Devin Bush led with 6, 2, and 1.

Missing in action in the first half was Kaleke Hudson because of last weeks targeting call.  It will be the same for him and his team this coming Saturday against Northwestern. After he got in the game in the second half, he had another targeting call.  It seems he still has to learn that the new rules, rule.

Over all the defense was outstanding.  Nebraska managed 39-yards rushing and 92 passing for a 1.7-yard average.  Josh Metellus got another interception on a ball tipped by Lawrence Marshall.

SPECIAL TEAMS OUTSTANDING:  Donovan Peoples-Jones led the parade with an absolutely mesmerizing punt return of 60-yards. Quinn Nordin hit two field goals, one of 50-yards, and one of 38-yards. On the other side of the ledger, he missed an extra point. Will Hart hit a long punt of 64-yards, and left 2 inside the 20 with one on the five-yard line. He had an average of 59.3-yards. Hart has become a weapon. Coverage was good-well, mostly.

HOW THEY SCORED: Full back Ben Mason broke the plane of the goal line with 10.27 left in the 1st quarter, after the offense produced a 6-play, 64-yard drive.  A short pass to Karan Higdon, and a Higdon zip of 46-yards did most of the damage. M-7, N-0.

On their next possession, the Wolverines struck on one play for a 44-yard TD as Karan Higdon broke into the end zone, and it was M-14, N-0.

The last M score of the period came on an 8-play, 66-yard scoring drive started by a 15-yard TE Sean McKeon catch, and featuring a completion to TE Zach Gentry, a Tru Wilson rush for 26-yards, and a Ben Mason smash of 4-yards for the TD.

This was a great quarter for both offense and defense. It was what fans had been hoping for, and it was further enhanced by the Ambry Thomas recovery of a fumble to end the quarter. Will Hart had booted a 57-yard punt to the N 35. The speedy Ambry Thomas grabbed a ball knocked into the air by M’s Jacob McCurry, and streaked into the end zone, but by odd rule it could not be advanced.  The end of the quarter ended the possession with no added score, M-21, N-0.  Still, it was a pleasure to watch Thomas make an outstanding play.

In the 2nd quarter, an M 4-play, four drive garnered a FG of 50-yards by Quinn Nordin. M-23, N-0.

The next Wolverine drive featured a 10-yard completion to People-Jones.  The ball was worked down to the N 5, and Zach Gentry nabbed the ensuing five-yard TD pass.  M-30, N-0.

Next Peoples-Jones gathered in a punt, and returned it 17-yards to the Nebraska 34.  Karan Higdon got it to the N 9 on a 25- yard scurry, and then he got it to the 1 on an 8-yard effort. Ben Mason plowed it in to complete the 3-play, 34-yard drive. M-37, N-0.

The Wolverines then got a safety on a catch by a Husker player while he was trapped in the end zone.  He then quickly pushed the ball out of the end zone to avoid the safety.  The play was reviewed, and called two forward passes on the same play. The safety stood. M-39, N-0.

Michigan had played a great half of football.

At 9:01 of the third quarter, Donovan People-Jones electrified the crowd with his outstanding punt return of 60-yards.  DPJ gathered it in on his 40-yard line and headed for the eastern sideline.  Did he have the speed to turn the corner and streak down the sideline toward the North end zone? No worry.  He cut toward the center, used a spin move to confuse a tackle, avoided another, and dove for the north west pylon for a stunning TD. M-46, N-0.

Nebraska bested the Wolverines on their next possession, avoiding M’s continued propagation of the coveted golden goose egg on the scoreboard for the Huskers. Michigan penalties fueled an 8-play, 55-yard Nebraska scoring drive which to resulted in a 35-yard field goal.  M-46, N-3.

Dylan McCaffery was now at the Wolverines’ throttle.  He conducted an 11-play, 55-yard scoring drive.  He ran for 17-yards during the drive. Stalled by a couple of incomplete passes, Quinn Nordin hit a 38-yard FG. M 49, N-3, and the third quarter scoring was complete.

The highlight of the fourth quarter for M fans was a 56-yard TD completion from McCaffrey to a very talented Freshman, Ronnie Bell.  The completion finished a  two-play drive. M 56, N-3.

Nebraska finished the scoring with a 7-play, 80-yard consolation drive to make a final of M-56, N-10.

TAKE AWAY:  The Wolverines opened up the offense and playbook a little, the offense achieved some parity in run versus pass, the defense and special teams played well, and a large group of youngsters got to play in the Big House. Also, the QB position group is brimming with talent and gaining experience in the system.

Still after three straight victories, it remains difficult to measure how good the Wolverines are at this point in the schedule.  Bigger challenges lay ahead. Plus a signature win.  The Wolverines have still to play themselves into the mix.

Next week an away game will test their mettle some.  Northwestern usually can score, and the Wolverines will have to limit penalties, but overall right now, this season is looking up. Bring on the Wildcats.

Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-Wolverines Corral SMU MUSTANGS 45-20

The Wolverines hosted SMU’s Mustangs of the American Athletic Conference Saturday at Michigan Stadium in the third game of their 139th season.  The fans of the one and one Wolverines were expecting to run away with this one, in a landslide.  The Wolverines won in a dominate victory, but the Mustangs battled.   The Wolverines at one-point pre-game were 35.5 favorites.

The Mustangs have not recently lived up to their storied past which featured the likes of their great running back Doak Walker. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1948, and achieved nation-wide fame, in the same year Benny Oosterbaan’s Wolverines won the National Championship. All I ever saw of him was in the newsreels then shown in movie theaters, but they displayed remarkable performances. Even up here in Michigan, he was a renowned football player.  The Doak Walker Award, was developed in 1989 to annually honor the best running back in college football, and the award is still prized.

The ranks of great SMU running backs also include the great Eric Dickerson of a more recent era.

This season the Mustangs came into M Stadium having lost two in a row.

Saturday the SMU running game was pretty much stymied by the Wolverines, but once in a while the passing game of the Mustangs had some kick. SMU had 110-yards rushing and 209 passing compared to 197 and 237 for the Wolverines.

WOLVERINES OL CONTINUES TO BUILD DEPTH AND EXPERIENCE: The Wolverine’s offensive line has been the subject of much fan indignity over the past decade, some well-earned, and some unfair. This has continued into the current season.

Last week the holes were there for the running backs and the running game prospered, as it did again against the Mustangs. Against the Broncos, they scored three passing TDs to end a long passing TD drought of almost exactly a year.  This Saturday Donovan Peoples-Jones matched that pass catching effort by catching three TDs himself. Granted this was not against a top 10 defense last week, nor this week, but these last two games have offered significant offensive experience thru live game snaps.

Position group depth is always a necessity.  This Saturday against the Mustangs third string RB Tru Wilson got a great shot at playing time because Karan Higdon was dinged, and therefore not available. Someone had to relieve the busy Chris Evans who ran18 times for 85 net yards, with a long of 35. Wilson did a mostly admirable job. His 11 attempts for 53-yards netted a TD. He had a long run of 12-yards.  Tough guy FB Ben Mason bulled for one TD.

Zach Gentry was the best of the TEs, with 4 grabs for 95-yards and a long of 32.  As good as his day was Donovan Peoples-Jones matched Zach’s catch total of 4 with three being TDs. His long was for 41-yards.

WHAT HAPPENED:  The Wolverines got off to a slow start offensively in the first quarter, but prospered enough defensively, to enable a zero-zero score in that quarter.

It is remarkable that after the first quarter, the Wolverines scored on every offensive possession of the second quarter.

Zach Gentry was paramount in the Wolverines opening scoring drive as he grabbed a 24-yard Patterson throw to the SMU twenty-seven.  This 11-play TD drive had several short runs.  It featured the absence of the injured Karan Higdon, and provided opportunity Tru Wilson’s first of 11 carries on the game. Fullback Ben Mason nailed the one yard TD. M-7, SMU-0.

SMU quickly answered with a 75-yard TD drive fueled by a 50-yard pass play.  Suddenly it was 7-up.

The Wolverines answered with a little help from the competition as the Mustangs coach earned an unsportsmanlike penalty of 15-yards to the SMU 35. A beautiful pass to Peoples-Jones for 35-yards made it M-14, SMU 7.

DB Josh Metellus provided a gifted and spectacular run down the eastern sideline with an interception, cutting back toward the center as it seemed he was trapped near the ten, and angling into the North end zone.  It was 21-7 at the half.  Strong run, some uncanny moves, and Josh is forgiven for a costly prior game targeting error. After the extra point was kicked, the clock read 00.00.

TE Zach Gentry was the leading receiver in the half with two catches for 56-yards. Chris Evans was the leading rusher in the half with 45-net yards.  M-21, SMU-7.

In second half’s third quarter, the Wolverines kept their offensive motor running.

SMU provided a substantial gift of an unsportsmanlike penalty to start a drive that featured an 11-yard pass to Gentry. Wilson got a holding penalty of ten yards that negated a nice Patterson run. After some short runs, Gentry nabbed one for 28-yards to the SMU seven, and a nifty pass to Peoples-Jones got the TD. It was DPJ’s second of the day. The drive consisted of 8 plays for 62-yards. It was M- 28, SMU -7

SMU answered with an 87-yard drive for a TD as M was guilty of multiple pass interference penalties, plus a personal foul call that got K. Hudson ejected.  The Mustangs ran it in from the two. M-28, SMU-13. (SMU missed the point after).

DPJ showed up again in the subsequent series, make a TD catch of 41-yards for his third TD catch of the day, matching a record set by JU Chesson. M-35 SMU -13.

The Wolverines closed the third quarter with one more pass interference penalty.

SMU opened the 4th quarter with an impressive 80-yard TD drive and it was M-35, SMU-20.

Chris Evans nailed a 35-yard run to start the next M possession.  Tru Wilson rushed for 12, 3 and 3.  Quinn Nordin hit a 45-yard FG to make it 38, 20.

Patterson hit Peoples-Jones for a 7-yard gain and then scrambled 18-yards to the SMU 44.  Samuels then rushed for 4, and then 18-yards to the SMU 9. Wilson ran it in for the TD.  M-45, SMU-20.

Aiden Hutchinson got a roughing the passer penalty on the next SMU possession, but the defense held, M got the ball back and it was in the books.

AFTER THOUGHT: While the expected giant blow-out did not occur, the Wolverines achieved a dominate victory as Chase Winovich stated afterwards.  It was probably the best kind of game the Wolverines could have as an “exhibition” game, as the Mustangs did not give up, and had a talented passing game, and battled.  The Wolverines tested many different players, and Shea Patterson showed some of his unique quarterback skills.  He has really athletic quickness, unusual pocket presence which leads to intense ability to escape.  The moxy is there, along with the arm.  He is an impressive player, and the best QB that has been at the helm at Michigan in a while. Maybe, in a couple of whiles.

His 18 throws captured 237-yards, and 3 TDs. He was sacked only once, but that is a lot attributable to his escape ability.   He used poor judgment in trying to fit a laser to a covered receiver, but the net balance of Saturday’s effort very much tilts to the good.  Where would this team be without him?

Defensively Chase Winovich did well.

TE Zach Gentry had a remarkable game, but Donovan Peoples Jones had a remarkable three TD catches in this game. It is fun to watch this talented player grow, and I feel his ceiling has not been reached yet.

NEXT WEEK: The Wolverines have lassoed the Broncos, and corralled the Mustangs so now it is time to knock the corn off the cob in roasting the Huskers of Nebraska.  The Big Ten Season has finally started.

Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-M TAMES WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS 49-3

Western Michigan’s Football Broncos galloped into venerable Michigan Stadium Saturday noon in hopes of visiting the Wolverines with their second loss of the young season.

Western also lost their first game of the season as they fell to Syracuse University 55 to 42, but now the Wolverines have added another loss to the Broncos season record, and they did so in dominating fashion.

The Broncos have been a decent MAC football team for a long time, but faltered some last season.  At a general size and talent disadvantage to the Wolverines, but the Broncos gave it everything they had against Syracuse in their opener.  They almost performed a fantastic come back rolling up a total of 560-yards.  The Orange of Syracuse managed an amazing 621 offensive yards.  The Broncos could not match that performance against the Wolverines Saturday, as the Wolverines scored 49 and limited the Broncos to 3.

THERE IS NOT BETTER VENUE IN WHICH TO WATCH COLLEGE FOOTBALL THAN MICHIGAN STADIUM:  The crowds keep coming in spite of the rising costs of games and parking, the availability of TV, and the irritations of inclement weather and traffic. Many enjoy the band, cheer leaders, dancers, the entrance of the players, the roar of the crowd, the spectacle.  Additionally, on Saturday the crowd heard the roar of two A-10C Warthogs as they flew over.  There is no place like M Stadium, and the opening home game of the season. The place was packed with 110,814 fans according to M authorities.  Even the student section looked full.

A FINAL LOOK BACK AT MICHIGAN’S 17-23 LOSS TO THE IRISH: Briefly, the Wolverine’s own mistakes spelled their doom on both offense and defense.  Players have been acknowledging that fact.

Offensively: A leaky offensive line contributed to poor pass protection, and the running game blocking provided a stunningly paltry per carry average sans adjustment for sacks.  Three sacks, a bunch of TFLs, and hurries is unacceptable.  An Irish player said post game, that they knew the rhythm the snap count.  That is not too surprising considering both center and QB were staring for the first time for the Wolverines.

In any case it was hard to recognize anything but basic play calling. Most of it was hum drum. Offensively, a run for two or three yards on first down, make it to third down and here comes the sack, TFL, or hurries. 

Defensively the Wimbush ambush-either by a productive run up the middle, or a throw for a score, provided the margin of victory for the Irish.  At crunch time late in the game came an interception and fumble by a bedeviled QB Shea Patterson.  Shea has acknowledged that he needs to hang onto the ball better, avoid interceptions, and not take a sack in FG territory.  All correctable faults.

So is the good game management deficit that the Wolverines displayed late in the game as they wasted time and opportunity when they should have been an offense on fire correctable.  Any sense of urgency turned into snap delay, as the sands of time hurried on.  Too late, too little, and too bad for winning opening game vibes.

At the start of the season, all worried about the offensive tackles, but after last Saturday’s game you can include the interior OL in the worry, at least a little bit.  Coach Harbaugh has indicated that he will not change OL personnel at this time. But if the Broncos gallop away with our necessary OL improvement, certainly personnel change on the OL might be in the air. 

Defensively: The early Metellus targeting call was pivotal as 3 and 9 became a 1st and 10 for the Irish. Other stupid penalties hurt. The Wolverines fortunes sunk into a deficit they could not overcome. A great second half defensive performance did not negate the effect of the very shaky first half on both sides of the ball.

The defense will quickly rise, even though it is apparent they miss MO Hurst.  They began a resurgence in the second half, limiting the Irish to 69 total yards and 3 points, and they showed that Saturday by continuing their resurgence against the Broncos. They recovered poise and polish, and played a great game against Western Michigan.

SHEA PATTERSON LED THE OFFENSE WITH AN OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE AGAINST WESTERN MICHIGAN. BACK UP DYLAN MCCAFFREY DID WELL ALSO.  BOTH QBs THREW THEIR FIRST TD IN MICHIGAN STADIUM. Starter Patterson was 12 of 17 for 125-yards, three TDs, and no interceptions.  He has a strong and accurate arm, and his vaunted escape ability were on display. Additionally, he has grit, poise, and QB moxie.

Dylan again looked poised and talented in his short stint in the fourth quarter.  He tossed an 18-yard TD to Jacob McCurry

ALL OF THE OFFENSIVE POSITION GROUPS ALSO CONTRIBUTED AS KARAN HIGDON HAD A GREAT GAME: The running game suddenly got productive, which means the holes were there for the running backs.  And the backs took advantage. M rushed for 184-yards in the first half on 16 carries, and carried that total to 308 for the game. 

While the OL looked improved from last week, it still has much work to do. OL Substitutes Spanellis, Fillaga, Mayfield and Hudson, got game action.  They looked more than adequate against the level of competition of the day. 

The OL still has a lot to prove, but there was progress on Saturday.  There was a hiccup or two.  A false start on the second play of the game by the offensive line startled Michigan partisans early, but things smoothed out. The OL is still a work in progress, but the work progressed Saturday.

Karan Higdon led the running game. He had 156-yards on 13 carries for the game. He had two runs of 45-yards or more, one of them being of 67-yards for a TD. It was the second longest of his career. He showed good speed, power and evasiveness Saturday.  He shares honors with Patterson as the best M offensive player in the game.   It lloks like Higdon is well on his way to the 1,000-yard season he missed by six yards last year.                                                                     

RB Chris Evans was also outstanding.  He had a 27-yard TD in the 1st Quarter, and a TD on a 2-yard run in the 2nd quarter. Again, the group amassed 308-yards of 451 net offensive yards.  This included some nice runs by newcomer Tri Wilson.  He had several late game carries that moved the chains, and gained 54 net yards. Quick to the hole, and fast upfield with power.

The WR position group was outstanding, with the pass of the day being a difficult Patterson toss into the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard TD by Donovan Peoples Jones, who made an outstanding reception. Harbaugh lauded the throw and catch afterwards. He indicated the throw was a quick decision by Patterson on the second read.

Nico Collins’ 44-yard catch in the second quarter was a very close second. It was the first time in a year a wide receiver in a Michigan uniform had snagged a TD pass. After the game the soft-spoken Collins was pleased with how the game went down for the team and his own progress as a receiver.  He is a tall and talented target.

The receivers caught 143-yards net yards passing

TIGHT ENDS WERE ALSO POINTS PRODUCTIVE:  TE Sean McKeon caught a 17-yard Patterson pass to open the scoring for the Blue.

It was interesting Saturday to see how the offense advanced from the prior week, but it is also necessary to keep in mind the stepdown in competition from last week.

The Wolverines Did engineer 451-yards of offense.

THE DEFENSE WAS SHARP: Even without the dinged DT Lawrence Marshall, and noted NT Aubrey Soloman, the unit produced a shut out until the tail end of the game, when the Broncos nailed a FG.

This no way diminished the success of the defense on this day.  They gave up a first down on only 4 of 17 Western third down attempts, and 2 of their 5 4th down attempts.  Noah Furbush nabbed an interception.  DT Rashan Gary had his first sack of the year, as did LB Jordan Anthony.  Viper Kaleke Hudson blocked a punt. 

The leading tacklers were Metellus and Gary.  Safety Metellus had 4 solo stops, plus 3 assisted, for a total 6.  DE Gary 4 solo stops, plus 2 assisted for a total of 6.  DB Brandon Watson had an outstanding game. DL Carlo Kemp started his first M game. They held the Broncos to 2.8-yards per offensive play

SPECIAL TEAMS:  M’s punting was spectacular.  Punter Hart hit three for an average of 56.7-yards. Kicker Moody was consistently knocking KOs into the end zone.  The only downer came as Place Kicker Nordin missed a routine FG.

BRIEF SCORING RECAP:  The Wolverines put the game away in a very productive first quarter with a trio of TDs.  TE McKeon scored on a 17-yard Patterson pass.  Then Karan Higdon went on his 67-yard tear for six.  The speed, read, evasiveness, and power were all there.  The Chris Evans hit a home run with a 27-yard streak for six.  At the end of the First; M-21, WM- 0.

Evans added to the scoring deluge early in the second quarter on a two-yard run. Then Nico Collins collared a 44-yard pass in the end zone.  A great throw and catch.

It was 35-zilch at the half.

Donovan Peoples-Jones made a great catch of a 5-yard TD pass already described for the only score of the third quarter, which ended 42-zip.

Dylan McCaffrey hit Jacob McCurry on a 18-yard toss. Again, Dylan displayed poise and ability. 

Next the Broncos hit their consolation FG to make the final 19-3, Michigan.

AFTERTHOUGHT: The was a solid domination from any aspect.  The Wolverines played a great game.

While it will not quell all the adverse commentary that the team and Coach occurred after the Notre Dame game, it should quell much of it.  It does not remedy all the faults exposed in the ND game.  Hopefully, as the season progress this will be a team that can threaten all challengers. 

Usually, win or lose, there is a hangover from a Notre Dame game.  None of that was displayed Saturday.  Obviously, they came home from South Bend and went back to work.

While it is a given that that WMU is not as talented or deep as ND, they have playmakers. Ask Syracuse.

A great home opening day is now in the books.  Its time to take the saddle of the Broncos and throw it on the Mustangs as we welcome SMU to Ann Arbor next Saturday.