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.

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2017: WOLVERINES RUN OVER GOPHERS 33-10

Those pesky rodents from Minnesota-oops-also known as the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers, gnawed-oops-clawed-oops-breezed into Ann Arbor to confront the elements and Wolverines to secure a football win, and take possession of the famous Little Brown Jug.

THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL TROPHY IS BACK IN ANN ARBOR: College football’s first football trophy, the venerable 30-cent, putty colored jug, has gained remarkable renown.  It has been mentioned in movies, its name has been used to identify restaurants, and other-wise has shown up in print in newspapers, magazines, and other media over many years.

Lost for a while in the 1920s, a duplicate jug was purchased by the athletic department, and stood in the Wolverine’s place of honor instead of the real McCoy for a while. Recovered from a weed patch, the actual famous jug has come again into the possession of the game’s winner annually.

In 1903, the Wolverines were to battle the Gophers there. According to M records the Wolverines had won 28 straight.  A good Gophers team managed a 6-6 tie against the Michigan juggernaut of that time, and they were proud of it.

The Wolverines, in their haste to return to Ann Arbor, left without their jug.

As M suspected prior to the game that Gopher “gamesmanship” might mess with the contents of their water jug, the Wolverines had obtained their own jug for safe supply.

The Gophers AD would not return the left behind jug, and challenged the Wolverines to win it back.  The Gophers painted the score of the 1903 six to six tie on the jug.  An enduring legend of college football was thus initiated.

WOLVERINES NOW LEAD SERIES: The Wolverines now lead the series 75-25-3, and are 72-23-2 in Little Brown Jug games. Saturday’s game was the 96th meeting for the Jug.

The Wolverines do not lose often in this scrap, but believe me, it is very painful when they do. Very painful.  In 2014, they lost 14-3, in 2005, 20 to 23, and in 1986, 17 to 20.

THIS YEAR’S EDITION OF THE GOPHERS:  The Golden Gophers are now 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten under first year Coach PJ Fleck.  The personable Coach Fleck was Head Coach at Western Michigan University last season.  The Broncos were sensational under Fleck’s tutelage, and he was beloved there.

2017-UMMIN-01

Image 1 of 62

A little polish was knocked off his image for Bronco fans, when he opted to become the Gopher leader for this season.  Western had a motto: ROW THE BOAT, that he initiated while there for his successful Bronco teams.  He took it to Minnesota, and it is a Gopher mantra today.  

Fleck and Harbaugh have both been both college and pro football coaches.

The Gophers have several decent running backs, headed by Rodney Smith, and they favor the run.  Smith had produced 1,158 yards this year before Saturday.  To say Tyler Johnson is a talented receiver borders on understatement. He had 31 receptions prior to Saturday this season, and 7 TDs.

The Gophers have a robust defense. Prior to the Wolverines, they had allowed only 150 points for their eight games. 

Marion Barber is a hallowed name in Gopher football. He was a great back at Minnesota and in the pros. Later John and Thomas Barber became Gophers football players, too. 

At present, Tom Barber is a key to their stalwart defense, the best of which might be the Gopher linebackers. He had caused two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception and led the B1G, and the country in solo tackles before facing the Blue this year.  He had 75 tackles this season, 50 of which were solo.  Barber played well against the Wolverines Saturday, and the Gophers came out hitting, but to no avail.  Saturday, Barber had 7 solo tackles in a losing cause, largely because the Wolverines were at their best offensively and defensively Saturday night.

At QB for the Gophers, Conor Rhoda and Denny Croft split time this season.  Croft did the heavy lifting again the Wolverines Saturday, and was sacked five times.  In a 34-37 win for the Spartans, Croft threw three 4th quarter TDs to Johnson to almost nail the Green Meanies.  That was impressive.  But he could not replicate that feat against the Wolverines’ defensive effort Saturday night.

M’s DEFENSE WAS ROCK SOLID, AND WAS LED BY VIPER KALEKE HUDSON:  Hudson is credited with 11 solos tackles, and 2 assists for a total of thirteen tackles.  He also had six-point five tackles for loss, and produced two sacks.  He was all over the field as he played a great game, leading the rest of the defense. The defense allowed a Golden Gopher TD in the first quarter, and a field goal in the fourth quarter, and that was it.  The GG’s had 128 yards of offense in the first half, and ninety-five in the second.

Freshman Aubrey Solomon started at the nose for the second time. 

M’s Josh Metellus was ejected as a squall broke out in the scrum later in the game. He was ejected for allegedly fighting.

PETERS GETS HIS FIRST MICHIGAN START: Brandon Peters had a good game, in a game which featured the Michigan’s suddenly blossoming running game. Peters was 8 of 13 passing for 68-yards, with no interceptions, and a TD.  His early pass completions set the stage for the running game, despite the fact he was sacked three times.

Peters was in complete control of the offense.  He was poised and executed his job perfectly.  Harbaugh said later that he wished that Peters could have had more passing attempts.  With the long runs by Evans and Higdon, the number of snaps for the Wolverines were fewer than usual.

KARAN HIGDON MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF:  Two hundred-yard games are as scarce as hen’s teeth for running backs, and Karan has produced two in a row.  He is the first back since Mike Hart to have multiple 200-yard games in a season. That was in 2004.  He is climbing the ladder of great Michigan running backs. His first quarter 77-yard TD streak was the Wolverines’ longest of the season, and he ran for another.

While Higdon had a fabulous game on the ground, he was not the Lone Ranger for the Blue in the running game, this game.  Chis Evans piled up 191-yards and 2 TDs, with a long of 67-yards for a TD and another 60-yard TD run.

Karan averaged 12.5-yards and Chris averaged 14.7-yards a carry.

THE MUCH-MALIGNED OFFENSIVE LINE HAD A STRONG PERFORMANCE: In many of the games this year, these articles have bashed the performance of the offense line, and not without reason.

Today that is in the past, as they performed very well.  For the most part, they were a well-oiled machine in the running game, even if they did give up three sacks.

With a newcomer, Cesar Ruiz, at right guard in replacement of the dinged Michael Onwneu, they supported three hundred and one yards on the ground.  Post-game, Karan Higdon again mentioned the OLs effort and effectiveness.  Saturday night they earned kudos.  Helmet stickers for all?  Maybe.

M FANS DESERVE ACCOLADES FOR BRAVING ADVERSE WEATHER CONDITIONS TO SUPPORT THE WOLVERINES:  The pregame inconveniences and weather threats for fans were numerous.  There was heavy rain, with major league thunder, and lightning.  Because of the rain, and vagrant electricity, M officials could not open the stadium at the expected time.

Fans were milling in the street, or huddled back in their cars or other shelters, but many were on the street enduring the elements.  Loudspeakers warned them to take shelter, but convenient shelter outside of cars did not seem readily available.  Fortunately, the lightning did not nail anyone.

There was conversation in the press box as to whether many of fans would show up after the all clear. We speculated that it might prove to be the end of the 100,000-attendance record. 

It was speculated that maybe 75,000 would show up at most.  At first the field and stands were harboring only light patches reflecting off patches of water.

The on-field water patches were squeegeed away, and soon a trickle of fans began to come down the aisles.  More and more of them poured in, and soon it was a flood of fans.  The roar of the over 111,000 could be heard during this later than scheduled night game.  A surprising number endured the uninviting weather to the end.

All the fans who persevered deserve helmet stickers! Well done!

HOW THEY SCORED:

The Wolverines struck first early in the first quarter on a Peters TD pass to Sean McKeon. Karan Higdon had a 47-yard run in the drive. M-7, G-0

Minnesota had a 10 play, 75-yard TD drive, scoring on a ten- yard run by RB Rodney Smith, and it was 7-up.

The Wolverines responded with a lightning strike by Karan Higdon for 77-yards to complete a two-play drive, and suddenly the Wolverines led 14-7.  It was as nice a run as one can ever want to see.  The Wolverines answered the Gopher score with a barn burner.

In the second quarter, Karan produced 13-yards on 2 carries, while Chris Evans did the heavy lifting with an 18-yard run, and a 60-yard TD to make it 20-7.  This was a four-play 91-yard drive, and it ended the scoring for the first half.

Michigan was in total control of the game. So much for red zone woes.  The Wolverines accumulated 312-yards to the Golden Gophers’ 66-yards.

The Higdon/Evans show continued in the second half, with Karan rushing for 15, and Evans for 8-yards.  Karan got 7 more.  Peters hit a 10-yard strike which was caught by Donovan Peoples-Jones. Higdon ran for a 5-yard TD to complete a 9-play, 46-yard drive. The Wolverines now had the game totally in hand, and were dominate, at 27-7.

Chris Evans put the frosting on the cake with M’s final score.  He ran 67-yards for a TD to make 33-7.  His attempt at a two- point conversion failed.

The Gophers completed their scoring with a field goal to make the final 33-10.

TAKE AWAY: The Wolverines are improving in all respects, but with Maryland (away), Wisconsin (away), and the Buckeyes (home) they need to win, win, and win to make this a more memorable season.

Go Blue!