Michigan 24 Army 21 – Week 2 Recap

WEEK 2 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 24-21 2OT, Michigan by 3 over Army
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 25.2 (-22.2)
CD Projection: Michigan by 20 (-17)

FIVE FACTORS

Click here for more description of the Five Factors from Week 1

WEEK 2 RECAP vs. Army

There was not much magic hidden beneath the surface of Michigan’s double overtime victory over the Army Black Knights.  Typically, the soldiers dominate time of possession. Today, Army only had a slight edge 31:35 to 28:25 for Michigan.  On the Five Factors table above, only the Explosiveness metric displayed a distinct advantage for one team. While the edge went to Michigan, there wasn’t a lopsided margin in YPP and IsoPPP that we expected from #SpeedInSpace.

The Wolverines were in serious trouble at the half.  Michigan was fortunate to only be down one score after two quarters. The Black Knights had cashed in on two short field opportunities for touchdowns.  Meanwhile, Michigan had only mustered one score as freshman Zach Charbonnet scored his first career touchdown as a Wolverine. After three turnovers and missing a long Quinn Nordin field goal attempt, Michigan averaged a paltry 1.75 points per first half scoring opportunity.

The uneasy feeling lingered into the second half. The referees called back a Giles Jackson kickoff return of 42 yards due to an illegal blindside block.  After Michigan went three and out, Army showed they had made some shrewd halftime adjustments and began to march. A 60 yard, 7:43 drive added to Michigan fans’ anxiety. However, once they reached the red zone, Army QB Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. was intercepted by corner back Lavert Hill.   5:19 later Charbonnet punched in his second touchdown of the day to tie the score. The interception by Hill was clearly a pivotal moment in this game, but not the final critical play.

The Michigan defense started the fourth quarter by forcing another three-and-out. Michigan’s offense took the momentum and drove back into Army territory with the score tied 14-14.  With the clock nearing 10:00 left in regulation, and facing 4th & 2 from the Army 19 yard line, Jim Harbaugh chose to keep the offense on the field. Shea Patterson handed off on a zone run to the right, but the Black Knights had called the perfect run blitz. Charbonnet was tackled immediately for a four yard loss. 

The decision to forego the 37 yard field goal attempt that could have broken the tie will be questioned for the next two weeks. The conservative play calls will also be a popular topic of discussion. Michigan chose to run the ball on 74% of their 4th quarter plays. A third confounding facet of this particular 4th down play is whether it was a called hand off to Charbonnet, or if it may have been a poor read by QB Shea Patterson.  Regardless, the ball went back to the Black Knights, and 110,000 Michigan heart rates increased rapidly.

A similar sequence followed: the Wolverines’ defense forced another Army punt, and again Jim Harbaugh kept the offense on the field for a failed 4th down conversion attempt, this time at the Army 42 yard line.  The Black Knights leveraged their one time out and marched into position for a potential 50 yard game-winning field goal. Somehow, Michigan fans were spared again as the kick fell short and wide right. Blood pressure continued to rise in the Greater Ann Arbor area as the teams prepared for overtime.

Both offenses converted in key spots to score touchdowns in the first over time period. Army used an unbalanced formation to outflank the Wolverines to score first.  Michigan answered with a clutch 3rd & 6 pass from Patterson to Ronnie Bell. After pass interference placed the ball at the 2 yard line, Charbonnet was able to burrow into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day.  

In the second overtime period, Michigan led off with three incomplete passes. Jake Moody provided some reliefe by converting a 43 yard field goal attempt to take their first lead of the game.  Again, Michigan called on their fatigued defense to at least hold Army to a field goal attempt. Defensive end Aiden Hutchinson answered the bell with a tackle for loss on 2nd down to force a 3rd & 11 from the 26 yard line.  As Army called just their fifth pass play of the game, Hutchinson was joined by Carlo Kemp in a huge inside pass rash to strip the ball from Hopkins. When Quity Paye fell on the fumble, he sealed Michigan’s second victory of the 2019 season.

I am sure this nail-biter may have been wildly entertaining for outside observers, but there was a deep and collectively frustrated sigh of relief from the Big House faithful after the Wolverines were finally able to move to 2-0. There will be no shortage of questions to answer during the upcoming first bye week.  Don Brown may have come up with some answers in Week 2. Let’s hope the offense can follow suit as Michigan preps for Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten.

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-TRAP AVOIDED AT RUTGERS 42 to 7

The 5th ranked Michigan Wolverines traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University last Saturday.  The Wolverines were a 39.5 favorite.  Rutgers had not won a Big Ten game in six attempts.  The Wolverines had captured 6 straight Big Ten Wins.

Rutgers has not enjoyed a good football season this year under Head Coach Chris Ash, and obviously, the Scarlet Knights aren’t riding high currently, but they believe they are improving.  They have some talented personnel on offense, and special teams.

They proved this by tying the score 7-7 in the first quarter with an 80-yard scamper from scrimmage much to the distress and surprise of both the Wolverines and their fans.

While a group of Wolverines was in close pursuit, they could not catch the speedy Scarlet Knight.  It was a beautiful serpentine run by Rutgers’ Isaih Pacheco for six.

He was in the end zone before the Wolverines caught him but he had the company of several Wolverines as they tackled him in the end zone, including Chase Winovich.  This was the biggest mistake the Wolverines defense made all evening, and they did not make it again.  The same play was stuffed a couple of times later.

The Wolverines do not have a long history against the Scarlet Knights, but have now bested the them four out of their five encounters.

They have only played since Rutgers was admitted to the B1G in 2014.  The one M loss is still celebrated in New Brunswick (campus location), and at Piscataway (stadium location). It was their first Big Ten win after entry into the conference, and a nasty blow to M fans at the time of its occurrence.

That 24-26 loss had an Appalachian State quality about it.  It is not a surprise that it is still celebrated at Rutgers.  Understandable, as anybody would forget a 78-zip loss, and remember their first Big Ten win instead.

THE FIRST COLLEGIATE FOOTBALL GAME WAS AT NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY-Rutgers v Princeton. The sesquicentennial of that 6 to 4 Rutgers victory will occur next year on November 6, 2019.  Wonder how many spectators attended that first game and what the price of admission was, if there was one.

When I read about this on the Rutgers pages there were the usual pejorative comments from disgruntled fans that emanate from struggling programs that are consistently losing.

Slowly but surely, Coach Ash is improving the product.  Only the Buckeye dreadnaught (52-3), and the Badgers torpedoed the Knights badly prior to the Wolverines, this season.

All the pro-Wolverine hype could lull a fan or a team to sleep. The Wolverines had much acknowledged superiority, but fortunately it did not prevent them from giving very satisfactory effort.  This was a classic example of a “trap game”. Only once did the Knights break a significant big play. Rutgers were out jousted and dominated in this tournament.

The Michigan Coaches are to be credited for having the Wolverines ready after three straight tough encounters with ranked teams.  They had both the will and the way to win. As was expected.  Rutgers played hard, had good schemes, and left some bruises.  Coach Jim Harbaugh lauded the efforts of both sides in his post-game press conference, and so did Rutgers, Coach Chris Ash.

OFFENSE AND DEFENSE were outstanding against the Knights, although, in truth, it was not one of the best defensive games of the season against the run.

In my opinion, the offensive player of the game was Shea Patterson. He tossed 18 times for 280-yards, and 3 TDs.

Coach Harbaugh said at the post game presser: “He (Patterson) really played well tonight. He just does everything you ask him to do. That was a really tough night to throw the ball, it reminded me of my days back in Solider Field with that wind and conditions. But he made some unbelievable throws with that swirling wind. Also, our receivers did a great job catching the ball in the elements. Our guys continue to do a really good job catching the ball. That was really impressive. Rutgers was doing a good job containing the run game, but the protection was terrific all night. The throw and catch part was difficult with the conditions, but they did it at as high a level as you could have.”

Shea is the “guts and glue” (as the late great Bob Ufer used to say) that holds M’s offense together this year.  He rolled right and left, hit receivers, handed off perfectly, threw for three TDs, threw no interceptions, made good RPO reads, and played in a poised and workmanlike fashion.

That WRs Nico Collins (3/56-yards, two TDs with a long of 36-yards), Donovan Peoples-Jones (5/83 and a long of 32), and Oliver Martin (3/35) made fine catches, kept a toe in bounds when required, and ran intelligent routes helped to make this an outstanding offensive performance.

TE Zach Gentry (3/42, long of 2) made an outstanding leaping catch. Chris Evans and Bell nabbed 3 each, for a combined 41-yards.

The WRs did have a couple of muffs, but they generally overcame the wind and are improving every game.

The OL was up to the task.  They pass protected well and opened hole for a number of backs.

Asked why M was 9 of 13 on third down conversions Rutgers’ Head Coach Chris Ash addressed the subject after the game by stating that “Can’t put it any other way. Good players make good plays. They pass protected well. And some of their play actions, we couldn’t get to the QB, and that’s really the difference”.

The OL also was a benefit to the running game.  In rushing for 2 scores, Karan Higdon blew past 1,000-yards to date for the season. It cannot be said that his game was among Karan’s best.  He did not have the best first half of his career.

Still, it has been a long time since an M RB has accomplished that for the Wolverines. Karan has earned every yard.

The leading rusher was Chris Evans who broke a late game 61-yard TD scamper, Chris ran 6/75-yards and 1 TD, for a 12.5 average. Tru Wilson ran 8/58, long of 15, with a 7.9-yard avg. Karan Higdon was 15/44 with a 2.8 avg.  Martin, Hewlett, Edwards Bell, Mason and Milton also carried.  The group totaled  40 carries for 204-yards, 3 TDs, and a 4.8-yard average.

The Wolverines totaled 453-yards of offense to Rutgers’ 252, Rutgers had only 59-yards through the air.

The Wolverines continue to show improvement game by game.

Chris Ash said that Rutgers’ had their best rushing performance in a long, long time, with but one “misfit” that occasioned Chris Evan’s 61-yard bee line to the end zone.  Other than that, he (Ash) thought they played a really good run game, and that it was their best rushing of the year.  Said the Wildcat helped some, and was part of the game plan.

The M defense was effective enough to win big on this afternoon, but maybe a little less aggressive than they were in the prior three games against the run. Against the passing attack they were lights out.

It is no surprise that after the three-game revenge tour they could have a little let down in crushing the running game.  The longest Rutgers play of the passing game was a trick play to a second- string Rutgers QB, Giovanni Rescigno, that went for 19-yards.

This is beginning to look like a consistently productive offense and defense. As good or better than any in the Big Ten.  I am certain Don Brown will cure any dysfunctions in the run defense by Hoosier time.

HOW THEY SCORED:  Rutgers received the Kick Off, and then the teams traded blows with no scoring effect for most of the 1st quarter until the 45 second mark.  Karan then ran it in from the 1 yard-line for a TD to complete an 8 play 59-yard drive. TE Zach Gentry had a 16-yard catch, Higdon, Evans and Mason got it to the one via short runs before Karan ran it in.  M-7, R-0.

Some seconds later Rutgers’ Pacheco breezed 80-yards to score via Rutgers’ best play of the game. M-7, R-7.  It was a most beautiful execution of a zone read play.

The Wolverines answered in the second quarter on another Higdon  1-yard TD run.   That completed a 12-play 65-yard drive.  Shea Patterson completed passes to Martin Oliver (7-yards),  Ronnie Bell (12-yards), Donovan Peoples-Jones (9-yards) to move the ball to the Rutgers  20. A couple of short runs and Higdon scored again.  This series was an example of Shea’s value to the Wolverines at the QB position. M-14, R-7

Next it was the Nico Collins show, as he caught a great throw by Patterson in the end zone.  Both the throw and the catch were perfection. This completed a 6-play, 53-yard drive for 6.  Collins had previously contributed to the drive with a 10-yard catch. M-21, R-7.

The half ended at the above score with the Wolverines firmly in control and receiving to start the second half.

Patterson went to the air again, and with effect.  First came an in-completion, then Gentry nabbed a 21-yard pass to the M 49. Peoples-Jones caught one for 32-yards. Oliver Martin was wide open in the end zone as the Wolverines made it look easy. It was a 6 play, 53-yard drive.  M-28, R-7.

The next M scoring drive started with a 13-yard Tru Wilson run. He then toted two for 8-yard each, and one for three.  Tru had his best Michigan performance in this game. A ten-yard pass to Collins got the score, completing the 5 play 43-yard drive. M-35, R-7.

The Wolverines finished the scoring for the game with a Chris Evans dash up the middle for 61-yards and the TD.  It seems that he is finally back to 100% after an injury plagued season. Good timing.

The Final was M-42, R-7

TAKEAWAY: This was a much-needed game for the Wolverines.  The offense was relatively ineffective running the ball, so Shea Patterson showed them the way to a win through the air.  This was a definite trap game, and the Wolverines prevailed, giving up only one big play, They can be happy with the result,

While the Northwestern Wildcats have clawed their way to Indy, the fate of the Wolverines regarding the West Division title is still in the making.  They must beat Indiana at home next week end, and the Columbus denizens in their lair the next week to face the Wildcats in Indy.

You can bet that the team and their coaches, are correctly taking it one game at a time, and are seeing only IU Red at this time, but the bigger picture can now come into view for fans.  In the shadows, beyond the Hoosier Red, one can catch glimpses of Scarlet tinged with Gray.  Even deeper into the shadows there lies a snarling Wildcat.

Michigan sorely needs to be in the Big Ten Championship title game.  They need a shot at another Big Ten Championship soon.  Some of us are getting old.

I think this set of Wolverines is up to the task.  They have the required coaching, talent, ability, and the will necessary  to make the required  team effort.

Go Blue!

THE MICHIGAN STATE MESS

Unfortunately for college football in general, and Michigan State University, in particular, MSU has emulated the famed Humpty Dumpty, by plummeting to earth after tumbling off a wall.  In MSU’s case, the fall was off a solid wall of good reputation. Their fall cracked, and also broke the shell of silence and containment so effectively engineered to maintain MSU’s reputation from damage by derogatory incidents over many years.

This sad state of affairs has not been child’s play to those victimized, but constitutes harsh, undeserved lifetime punishment. It is true that it is hard, if not impossible, to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. MSU may smell the stench of this mess for many years. Tarnished reputations are difficult, if not impossible, to render whole again.

But Michigan State is giving it the old college try, with the firing of the University’s president, and its noted Athletic Director and the head of their Department of Osteopathic Medicine.

Former Governor John Engler is now in charge of the restoring MSU’s reputation.  Some feel he has not, in the past, been a special friend of academia. He has been, and remains a most astute politician and stellar Spartan.   He appears to be an ally of Ingham County’s Prosecuting Attorney who is charged with an investigation of the scandal(s).  Some say Engler has endorsed him for Governor.  Some victims and others have noted this with concern. In any case, it is certain he has the best interests of MSU at heart at all times.

Much of the student body and faculty seem on the right page regarding the situation.

I don’t think that Coach Izzo and Coach D’Antonio will be fired as so many Spartan fans fear, but they may have to put up with enduring questions for the rest of their careers.  That is not an important question at issue here. 

The most important issue is that the anti-victim culture, so long maintained and nurtured in East Lansing, supposedly for the benefit of MSU, be eliminated for the benefit of MSU. The dysfunctional MSU Board of Trustees needs to be addressed.

Can this kind of mess happen at any University?  Of course.  Sexual transgressions are part of humankind, but coverups of such activity intensifies the damage to individuals and institutions, as MSU is learning, and as PSU learned earlier.  Too many under age, helpless and unfortunate victims have also learned.  This stuff can be nipped in the bud if there is maintained in a community a culture of sensitivity to victims, and openness. Silence is not always as golden as advertised.

Sadly, for Michigan State, a comparison to the Penn State’s Sandusky scandal readily comes to the minds of many people.  How can one tell which was worse?  In terms of ruined lives, ruined University reputations, and eventual institution dollar costs, they are both horrific. Cover-ups spell disaster.