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.