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.