The Rebels of Nevada Las Vegas made their way into Michigan Stadium last Saturday noon, to confront a Wolverine’s team that had made strides between its opening game loss at Utah and its subsequent defeat of Oregon State’s Football Beavers. They did continue their improvement against the Rebels in many respects, although the team’s performance was not all satisfactory.
The offensive line played well. Ty Isaac proved that he could lug the football with the best of them as he used power, speed, and agility to provide a 76- yard TD late in the second half, impressively scoring his first Wolverines TD. Jehu Chesson was lightning fast in an impressive 36-yard TD of his own. The defense was outstanding for three quarters but slipped a little in the fourth quarter, giving up a big play to facilitate the Rebels only score.
For their season opener at Utah, the Wolverines were a turn over machine, and sported an anemic run game. The Saturday before last, against Oregon State, the run game was better, and it was decent this Saturday ( M rushed 39 times for 254 net yards, indicating sustained OL improvement).
The interception demon reared its ugly head again, as Jake Rudock threw another. Only one this time, but still this is a nagging concern. He used his legs 3 times for 15-yards, and his arm 22 times for 14 completions, 123-yards, and a TD. He reversed field on one run, and made a certain loss a gain. They used a no huddle at least once. Still he did not put nagging QB doubts to bed entirely.
He has yet to hit WRs down downfield, and threw behind some closer receivers. Post UNLV Coach Harbaugh said that Jake Rudock’s job was winning games. And he did that this Saturday. Still it seems some improvement is necessary at the QB position. Coach Harbaugh reminded after the game, that on Saturday day the winds that were swirling on the field should be considered.
Part of the reason the UNLV defense was able to load the box was because of the lack of any ability to stretch the field vertically. But they paid a price for that when TY Isaac whipped them for that 76-yard run to a TD to close the first half.
The featured running back for Utah, and again in the second game against Oregon State, was De’Veon Smith. There was an impressive change in his performance between his first and second games. He read the lanes and found the openings better against OS. He ran hard and avoided some tackles, broke other tackles, and sometimes dragged the pile. Then he even caught a critical 4th and 5 pass, to prolong a critical drive. He caught another pass Saturday for a 5-yard TD. But on this day the star RB was Ty Isaac. Isaac rumbled for 114-net yards, and a 76-yard TD. The next longest run was by the speedy WR Jehu Chesson on a 36-yard jet sweep for six.
Nevada appeared over matched at almost all, if not all, position groups. Their QB is coming off an injury. Thirty four points is the largest favorable edge predicted for the Wolverines since Akron troubled the Wolverines a few years ago. Each game counts the same, and a good team will win the ones they are supposed to win. This was one of those games.
Even though Coach Harbaugh praised UNLV and its Coach after the game, and UNLV played hard, they came into Michigan Stadium with a long string of away game losses, as the 34-point spread reflected.
You knew Coach Harbaugh would not let his charges put out hammocks and bask in the glory of last week’s win, and they would not want to do that either. Some are still fighting to retain positions, and they all are fighting to restore or enhance Michigan football respectability. Coach Harbaugh had them hitting on all cylinders for much of the game against an obviously over matched, but game opponent, that fought to the end.
Post-game Coach Harbaugh said they wanted a quicker start than they had in their two prior outings. That opportunity was supplied by CB Channing Stripling. At about the thirteen minute mark of the 1st Quarter, his brilliant interception at the M 38 was carried to UNLV 32. Smith ran 3 times for 12-yards and Darboh snagged an 11-yarder. Finally Rudock hit Smith for the 5-yard TD. M-7, UNLV-0.
As the 1st Quarter turned into the 2nd, after a 7-yard Kerridge catch, and a short Darboh run, Jehu Chesson set sail for the end zone on a 36-yard, jet sweep TD jaunt. Chesson is fast, and the team needs fast. M-14, UNLV-0. The early lead was solidified, and was soon improved.
Nose tackle Ryan Glasgow had a terrific game. The Michigan defense did its thing again and the Rebels were forced to punt again.
The defense, except for their lapse in the 4th quarter, played well. They held the Rebels to 129-yards rushing and 133 passing, with much of the passing yardage supplied by a single long play.
James Ross III led the team with 4 solo tackles and 1 assist. Joe Bolden had 3 solo tackles, and 3 assists. Gideon, Ojemudia, D. Hill, and Morgan were right up there, too. Half a dozen TFLs, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions completed a good day’s defensive work.
Late in the second quarter, Kerridge rushed for six yards. Ty Isaac rushed twice for 8-yards to the M-24, and then put his name in the Wolverine record book by a combination of agility, strength, and speed as he streaked 76-yards for six. Great call, great run, great drive! Its four plays covered 90-yards.
Earlier criticism of Ty was that he went down too easy. That should be rethought. Michigan needs play makers and he certainly is one. Understandably, Coach Harbaugh wouldn’t hear of a running back controversy in the post game presser. Quarterback controversies yes, he said, but not running back controversies.
There is a place for both Smith and Isaac, and the whole stable of running backs, as it looks like they are central Harbaugh’s offense. And now you can add Drake Johnson to the mix of active backs as he had several carries.
The half was history at 21 to zip. The Wolverines dominated offensively and defensively.
The offense had the ball to start the second half but could do nothing with it. Blake O’Neill had a 59-yard punt to the Rebels 11. While he had a short punt out of bounds for something close to 13-yards, on the day, he hit 5 for 193-yards, with 4 inside the 20. Good on you, Blake!
Jeremy Clark had an athletic interception in the third quarter but neither team put points on the board in the barren 3rd quarter. Passes fell incomplete as the offense sputtered, but they did manage one more 1st down (4) than UNLV in the period. Defensively M picked up a PI penalty.
At the start of the 4th Jake Butt caught one for 9-yards. Isaac ran for 10-yards on two carries. Rudock hit Chesson for 12-yards, and Harris for 8. Isaac lost a yard, but Sione Houma caught a 5-yard pass that looked like a TD. It was called a TD on the field. Upon review the TD was overturned, and the ball placed on the one yard line. Houma quickly dove across the goal line for his first Michigan TD. M-28, UNLV-0.
Just as many in the crowd were thinking shutout, a 53-yard UNLV pass by QB Blake Decker was completed to Dontae Boyd. A subsequent 6-yard pass killed the shutout and completed the scoring. The final was M-28, UNLV-7.
Wide Receivers Darboh, Kerridge, Butt, Ways, Chesson, Houma, all caught passes, but only Running Back Smith caught a pass for a score. The only TD by a WR was Chesson’s 36-yard run for 6. Darboh also ran an end around for 4-yards. The receivers saw scoring only by running, and had only 118-yards through the air. Part of that dearth, was the game plan highlighting the running game.
Special teams were somewhat special. Jabril Peppers had a magnificently athletic 24-yard punt return, and a 31-yard kick-off return. Kenny Allen kicked three kick offs for touch backs. Blake O’Neill had a 59-yart punt as previously mentioned.
Was Harbaugh satisfied with anything? Definitely not, as he stated after the game, the word satisfied has no place in the lexicon of a coach. Satisfied, no! Happy, yes!
There was much for a coach or a fan to be happy about, even if there were a couple of areas of concern. The inability of the Wolverines to complete the deep pass, and continuing interceptions are still areas that require more work as the competition stiffens.
Bring on Brigham Young University.