[Ed-S: Probably going to bump this feature all year unless I forget to.]
Well, that’s one way to start a season.
Best: Roman Reign’d In
In my preseason preview, I cautioned that this column’s length is going to be much more dependent on the quality of the game compared to earlier seasons; life finds a way of limiting the number of hours you can dedicate matching animated gifs to a sporting event involving kids dangerously close to half your age or more.
While the acquitted themselves admirably against Cal to start the year, the Rainbow Warriors were basically what everyone thought they were. Hawaii has a senior QB with a career completion percentage a shade under 50%, a 19:24 TD:INT ratio, and no real mobility. They don’t really have much of a running game if the defense has any ability to hold up even momentarily at the point of attack, and if the guy throwing the ball doesn’t have good numbers, you gotta believe the guys trying to catch those balls aren’t particularly good either. Their defense last year was nestled between North Texas and Oregon St. in FEI, and that was with a couple of guys on the defensive line who were either injured or kicked off the team for this game. I balked at the 44-point spread for the sole reason that I assumed Hawaii would pick up a couple of meaningless points at the end of a blowout to “only” lose by 40.
That’s what would have happened under Carr. It’s what would have happened under Hoke. It wouldn’t have happened under RR simply because the defense would have given up some points along the way. It was about winning with “class”, about beating an inferior opponent soundly but not excessively. You showed up for the body bag games because you had to be part of the equation, the vengeful god smiting the peasants giving you tribute. That’s how Michigan did it for years, and it seemed to work out pretty well.
But Harbaugh ain’t wired like that. Now, he’s not a Steve Spurrier at Florida or an Urban Meyer at OSU, who took any opportunity to run the score up even if it meant going for 2 on your first two scores of the game. But as was his mantra at Stanford, he wants his teams with win with character, but also with cruelty. Harbaugh will put in his backups when appropriate and won’t necessarily “pick” on an opponent, but as we saw in the Citrus Bowl in which Jake Rudock was throwing bombs well into the 4th quarter of that game, he isn’t going to shrink his playbook or go on “cruise control”. He isn’t wired that way, to relent or show mercy in the patronizing way some other coaches do, and he (rightly) assumes that as long as there is time on the clock you play football.
[hit THE JUMP for complaining that a 98-yard touchdown drive should have gone better and stuff]
News bullets and other important items
- Jourdan Lewis, Ben Braden, and Mo Hurst were Harbaugh’s decision to hold out. Lewis and Hurst should be back next week. De’Veon Smith got bruised and should also be back next week.
- Taco Charlton has an ankle injury and Bryan Mone needed an MRI Saturday night.
- When all is said and done, 17-20 freshmen should see the field this year.
- Harbaugh wasn’t worried about the first-play interception because his measure of a QB is how they respond on the following drive.
- Harbaugh said they’re just scratching the surface of what Chris Evans can do. Expect to see him catching the ball out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver soon.
- There’s still a competition for the backup QB spot (and probably every spot, really) because of course there is.
- Harbaugh effusively praised the defense (he said they didn’t make a stance or alignment mistake through three quarters) and the secondary in particular.
[Getting the mics passed out is taking a minute]
“I can just give you my first answer. The first thing that strikes me is—it hit me about Thursday [or] Friday [that] our coaches had worked this group of players as hard as you possibly can, and our players worked themselves as hard as they possibly could, and it just hit me Thursday [or] Friday that it’s time to just let them go show what they can do. I thought we’d be good, and it was. I thought our team played really well.”
Wilton talked about how your reassurance after that first play—what it meant to him. You’ve been through that a lot of times, that kind of thing. Talk about your approach there.
“Well, really my approach was I wanted to see what he did on the next series. It’s very difficult for a quarterback to throw an interception on a series and then come back and lead a touchdown drive the following series. It’s something I’ve always been fascinated in watching quarterbacks, and the really good ones can do that. They don’t think about, ‘I’m not gonna make another bad mistake.’ I mean, that’s what some do, but good ones don’t. I was just excited for that opportunity, to see what he was going to do on the next drive.
“And then to see him start the next drive on the two-yard line. I mean, that’s as much adversity as you can have for a quarterback starting a series, starting a drive: having thrown an interception on the previous drive—and the very first throw of the game—and then to find yourself on the two-yard line. But he responded in tremendous fashion to lead a touchdown drive, make big third-down conversion throws, to make as good a corner throw to Grant Perry as can be made. It can’t be thrown any better. The slant he threw coming off the goal line cannot be thrown any better.
“Had total command and I think it speaks volumes and bodes really well for our team and bodes really well for his career as a quarterback to have done that, to have come back off an interception and then very next drive go on a 98-yard touchdown drive. Now he knows he can do it, and now we’ll expect him to do it. So, it was good for our team. Good for his career.”
Mike McCray’s overcome a lot and we saw him all over the field today. Talk about what that meant and how good he was out there today.
“I feel like our inside backers are very athletic and can run and get to the sideline and still play very physical inside the box, take on blockers, take on guards, take on backs. I think it’s a step up in terms of athleticism when you look at Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon and Devin Bush.
“There’s a lot of guys, a lot of guys that have personally overcome a lot that were out there and did well today. Michael Hirsch is another. Several. Several guys.”
[After THE JUMP: Imagine how excited Harbaugh was when Michael Jordan coincidently delivered one of his favorite messages to the team]
Chris Evans broke the hundred-yard mark in his debut. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
It's hard to exceed expectations when facing a 41-point underdog.
Michigan exceeded expectations.
The defense was as salty as advertised, holding Hawaii without a first down until under five minutes remained in the first half; it took until the beginning of that drive for the Rainbow Warriors to get positive yardage. Even with the absence of Jourdan Lewis and Maurice Hurst, who sat out the game due to minor injuries, losing Taco Charlton to an apparent ankle injury early, and rotating in seemingly every warm body on the bench, the defense held Hawaii to 232 total yards and a 55-yard field goal that barely cleared the crossbar. That same Hawaii offense put up 482 yards on Cal last week. Cal's defense is bad, yes. Michigan's did nothing to dispel the notion they'll be elite today.
The offense began the game in ominous fashion when Wilton Speight tossed a pick on his first play as the starting quarterback. To say he bounced back is an understatement; he finished 10-for-13 for 145 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers (Grant Perry, Jake Butt, and Amara Darboh).
"[Jim Harbaugh] just grabbed me, hugged me, and was kinda laughing," Speight said about the aftermath of his ill-fated opening throw. "[He] was like, 'don't worry, we'll get it next drive, don't even sweat about that,' and I was able to do that."
"He responded in tremendous fashion," said Harbaugh, who added the touchdown throw to Perry on the next drive "could not have been thrown any better."
Four quarterbacks played. Eleven players recorded rush attempts. Eleven caught at least one pass.
Of all of them, a true freshman stood out above the rest. Running back Chris Evans rushed for 112 yards and two scores, including a 43-yard burst right up the gut, on only eight carries. He's very much a running back, and he looks at the very least to have locked up the #3 spot on the depth chart behind DeVeon Smith and Ty Isaac.
"I knew Chris Evans is special. What you saw today is what we've been seeing all month," said Harbaugh. "He's a special player and I expect big things going forward."
Delano Hill had one of M's two pick-sixes. [Fuller]
Delano Hill and Channing Stribling weren't content to let the offense do all the scoring. Both recorded pick-sixes, Hill's on a 27-yard return, Stribling's covering 51 yards mere moments after his would-be interception was negated by a late hit on the quarterback. Ball don't lie.
Stribling's score gave Michigan a 49-0 lead with 10:51 left in the third quarter. The rest of the game was essentially an exhibition for the recruiting class of 2016. Receiver Eddie McDoom elicited a few wonderful "McDOOOOOOM" chants from the crowd, taking two end-arounds for 34 yards and gaining another first down with a nifty eight-yard catch over the middle. Michigan's run offense perked up when Ben Bredeson entered the game at left guard. Michael Onwenu played on both the offensive and defensive line; he made his biggest mark at guard, looking every bit as strong as you'd expect from a human neutron star. The list of freshmen to see the field is too long for this recap.
Harbaugh said that the injury that held Lewis out today is "healed," and it was his decision to hold Lewis out today; same goes for Hurst and guard Ben Braden, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Patrick Kugler. All three would've played if the opponent had warranted it. DeVeon Smith's rib injury is apparently minor. We'll have to wait and see on Charlton and Bryan Mone; Harbaugh said Mone will undergo an MRI tonight, though he didn't specify where.
If Michigan managed to escape without significant injury—we'll have to wait and see—then it's hard to imagine the opener going much better. The offense averaged 8.7 yards per play with great balance (10.3 yards per pass, 7.8 per rush), hardly slowing down after the starters took a seat. The defense almost literally didn't cede anything until backups were a major part of the rotation, and they scored two more touchdowns than Hawaii.
No sweat, as they say.
Bob kindly wrote us our very own liveblog software. It’s still in beta so a lot of features are not quite ready yet. Like the proton torpedoes don’t even arrive ‘till Tuesday.
The yellow/ orange bar is your mana.
Sending messages costs mana.
Messages cost more, the more active chat is.
The red dudes on the side bar are lives remaining.
If you break the Board Rules, you lose a life. Lose three lives and you have to insert a quarter into your monitor. No no keep trying it, it’ll go in. As always, the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is The Law. The Preview is here.
Enter the liveblog here: kibitz.io/#/hawaii (will open in new window. Sorry no embed yet. Tuesday.)
It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of Ken “Sky” Walker and Heiko “Never Picked a Nickname” Yang, and I look forward to working with Nick. Punt/Counterpunt has graced the pre-game routines of countless Michigan fans over the last two decades, myself included. I remember some of my earliest trips to the Big House, when the first thing I did after plopping down in my seat was to flip to see Ken’s and Nick’s thoughts on the game. I would then call whoever made the more pessimistic prediction an idiot. They alternated in this role; sometimes it was Ken, and sometimes it was Nick. And even when the more pessimistic take was ultimately correct, said author was still an idiot. And probably jinxed the whole thing with their pessimistic juju. Look what you did, idiot. Michigan just lost because of you.
Such is the nature of fandom. You respect the superstitions. You don’t talk about a no-hitter during a no-hitter. You wear your Lucky Game Shirt even if your team is 2-7, on the off chance it suddenly makes Nick Sheridan an unstoppable throw-god. You don’t bring up 2007 before a season opener. I guest-Punted last year’s MSU P/CP, and I still feel bad about it. So I promise to do my best to not mess anything up this year, because this promises to be a HELL of a season.
The good news for me in stepping into this role is than now I get to assume Nick is the idiot 100% of the time. And the good news for everyone else is that, having read my stuff for a while, you all know that I am the idiot. It’s win-win.
Fortunately, this week’s game provides less opportunity for idiocy than normal. Michigan is a 40-point favorite against a team that is flying across seven time zones after spending the previous week in Australia. The biggest questions this week are “will Hawaii score?” and “how high will the rubble bounce?” Such questions do not lend themselves to declarations of “told you so.”
Yes, Michigan beats Hawaii. They beat Hawaii by a lot. The extent of the devastation will come down to how early Michigan lets off the gas, and whether they even slow down once that happens. Hawaii turned the ball over five times against an awful Cal defense, so there’s a good chance Michigan either scores on defense or ends up with multiple short fields. Hawaii gave up 9 plays of 20+ yards against Hawaii, most of which were the result of poor tackling and the Rainbow Warriors exhibiting the gap integrity and situational awareness of a Roomba. This is not a recipe for success and glory against a Harbaugh offense. Vanilla Garbage Time Michigan Offense is still likely to run all over this undersized, jetlagged, not-that-good-to-begin-with Hawaii team. And given Michigan’s depth on defense, it’s hard to see that side of the ball going much better as the game wears on.
So, my answers are “eh, maaaaybe?” and “quite high, thank you very much.” Michigan 49, Hawaii 3
by Nick RoUMel
Yes, Punt, there is a way for Hawai’i to beat Michigan.
There are certain results that cling to one’s memory like a leech. There’s Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary to beat Michigan in 1994, Appalachian State in 2007, and something that happened last year in the Big House on October 17, 2015. One wishes fervently to Spotless Mind these events. Jack London once wrote, “To be able to forget means sanity.” Friedrich Nietzsche one-upped London, asserting “Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.”
But for Hawai’i coach Nick Rolovich, it wasn’t enough to merely forget Michigan’s 49-3 shellacking on September 3, 2016. He wanted a thorough do-over.
The embarrassment was so acute. Nearly 113,000 screaming fans, on an achingly beautiful late summer afternoon in Ann Arbor, celebrated Michael Jordan, Jumpman, and a thumping defeat of Rolovich’s Rainbow Warriors.
Shockingly, Hawai’i struck first. Taking the opening kickoff, a nifty drive surprised the Wolverines with a field goal. It temporarily silenced the home crowd, but that was all they had. As the police officer told Clark Griswold about his forgotten puppy, “Poor little fella, the first mile or so he tried to keep up with you, but after that ...”
Yes, “after that.” In response to Hawai’i’s opening drive, the Wolverines were merciless: scoring touchdowns on 6 consecutive drives until emptying the bench, even giving Jordan a try at a field goal for the longest three-pointer of his career. (He missed.) Embarrassed, and exhausted from their travels halfway around the world, the Warriors could not be consoled in the locker room by their new coach.
Rolovich thought back on the humiliation - not just of the football game - but of being jilted by Coach Harbaugh’s refusal to give him film of Michigan’s scrimmage. While Rolovich claimed later he was joking, it was a lame attempt to cover the pain of rejection.
“What if I could have seen the game film?” Rolovich wondered. “Would it have made a difference?” Or was it all the travel that tired us out so much, including going back-and-forth over the International Date Line?” He drummed his fingers, then stopped cold. The idea was so bright it blinded him from the inside.
Furiously, he acted. He chartered a plane as quickly as possible, and arranged for provisions to be stocked for a long trip. Gathering his players, he steeled himself to go back in time. “Men, we’re going back to Australia.” Puzzled, the 0-2 Rainbow Warriors thought their coach daft. But by the second west-to-east journey, they’d already gone back a day and a half -but not before they managed to dissect a video replay of the Michigan game, play by play.
By the time the plane reversed course, went back east-to-west, and landed in Detroit Metro, they were ready. A bewildered Coach Harbaugh said afterwards, “It was like they knew exactly what we were going to do on every play.” Michigan’s superior talent almost saved the day, but the Rainbow Warriors hung on for the shocking win.
Coach Rolovich smiled. This was even better than forgetting.
HAWAI’I 21, MICHIGAN 20
P.S. Welcome Bryan!
You can’t tell but that text was very important to the production of this show.
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We are back, this time broadcasting live from inside Moe Sport Shops on North University. Well, kinda live. Going live wasn’t so much live-live as banging on equipment until it agreed to do things. Also Brian forgot the names of both of our guests. For Brian’s benefit we will call these guests Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) from 247Sports, and author John U. Bacon, who will have the afterword to Endzone soon.
Inside the Crooked Blue Line, With What’s His Name
Various top overall recruits in the country are discussed.
After Endzone, with “Dave” U. Bacon
Michigan Hockey has a mushroom cloud in Halifax to thank for its existence. No that is not a South Park reference. Rather it’s John U. Bacon sharing a few exclusive bits about his upcoming projects, and Jim Harbaugh’s plans for Michigan.
Ace Pronounces the Warriors
Carl Grapentine is probably going to walk into Warde Manuel’s office and demand he never schedule Hawaii again.
Good Times With DeBord
A second running play is good to have against ASU.