The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
With most of the college football spring games now complete, with the exception of one (Oregon), I thought I would take a look at how the spring games of Michigan’s four 2015 non-conference opponents went. I’ll do it in chronological order by when Michigan faces each team on the schedule. This is not a preview of each team, rather, just a relatively quick synopsis of how their spring scrimmages turned out.
As with most spring games, a lot of major players were held out, so of course we’re not seeing everything from a spring scrimmage.
Utah Spring Game – April 25, 2015
The University of Utah Utes played their spring football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the site of what will be Jim Harbaugh’s first game at the University of Michigan. Sort of surprisingly, the coaches seemed to be allowing full contact, and there were a couple of pretty good hits put on over the course of the scrimmage. The game went very similarly to Michigan’s spring game in the sense that one squad was shut out and there was a lot left to be desired from both offenses. Both squads were able to mount decent penetration, but turned the ball over on multiple occasions in the red zone, including two interceptions in the endzone. Cumulatively, four interceptions were thrown by Ute quarterbacks, and the only touchdown of the game came via a pick-six from sophomore defensive back Marcus Williams. Kicker Andy Phillips nailed a 53-yard field goal. The final score was White 12-0 Red.
Highlights/Pac-12 Network postgame analysis video:
Oregon State Spring Game – April 18, 2015
The Oregon State University Beavers played their spring football game in Reser Stadium. The game went pretty much the opposite of Michigan’s spring game, as there were points aplenty for both squads. The Beavers coaches went with some basic but speed-friendly playcalls, featuring a lot of fly sweeps and various types of screen passes. Xavier Hawkins took a fly sweep to the house, and fellow wide receiver Victor Bolden turned on the jets and found the endzone via a well-executed tunnel screen. Freshman QB Seth Collins found the endzone twice through the air, but showed off his athleticism running the football on a couple of occasions. Collins hurdled a defender during one of his scrambles, and was completely upended on another before nearly landing back on his feet. The final score was White 41-31 Orange.
UNLV Spring Game – April 18, 2015
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels played their spring football game at Peter Johann Memorial Field, which is primarily used for their soccer games. The Blake Decker to Devonte Boyd connection worked twice for scores, and Decker and Boyd each totaled three scores accounted for. Anthony Williams hauled in Blake Decker’s only touchdown pass not to Boyd, and Boyd grabbed the only touchdown pass from Kurt Palandech. Keith Whitely also found the endzone on the ground. The scrimmage was not played as a game with split squads, so there is no final score listed for the Rebels’ spring game.
Highlight video and statistics:
BYU Spring Game – March 27, 2015
The Brigham Young University Cougars played their spring football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on a Friday night. In an interesting move, since-graduated quarterback Christian Stewart was invited back to participate in spring drills with the Cougars, and played in the spring scrimmage. He tossed two touchdown passes to Travis Frey and Nate Carter. Carter also found the endzone on the ground. Most of the first team members, including senior quarterback Taysom Hill, did not participate in the scrimmage and instead took part in 7-on-7 drills. There is no final score listed for the Cougars’ spring game.
Highlight video (There isn't a great one out there of BYU's final practice, so I just posted the best one I could find. Music in the background):
With the recent announcement of night games being added on the road and home night games being rejected for 2015, I figure I'd take another list from my SuperGuide and put up in a Diary.
The history of Michigan Football night games:
|9/23/1944||at Marquette||W 14-0|
|9/23/1972||at #6 UCLA||W 26-9|
|1/1/1976||#3 Oklahoma||L 6-14||Orange Bowl|
|12/28/1979||North Carolina||L 15-17||Gator Bowl|
|12/31/1981||#19 UCLA||W 33-14||Bluebonnet Bowl|
|9/18/1982||at #20 Notre Dame||L 17-23|
|11/12/1983||at Minnesota||W 58-10|
|1/2/1984||#3 Auburn||L 7-9||Sugar Bowl|
|12/28/1984||#1 BYU||L 17-24||Holiday Bowl|
|11/16/1985||at Minnesota||W 48-7|
|10/4/1986||at Wisconsin||W 34-17|
|11/7/1987||at Minnesota||W 30-20|
|9/10/1988||at #13 Notre Dame||L 17-19|
|9/15/1990||at #1 Notre Dame||L 24-28|
|10/25/1991||at Minnesota||W 52-6|
|12/30/1994||#10 Colorado State||W 24-14||Holiday Bowl|
|9/16/1995||at Boston College||W 23-13|
|12/28/1995||#19 Texas A&M||L 20-22||Alamo Bowl|
|10/26/1996||at Minnesota||W 44-10|
|10/17/1998||at Northwestern||W 12-6|
|9/18/1999||at Syracuse||W 18-13|
|1/1/2000||#5 Alabama||W 35-34 OT||Orange Bowl|
|11/9/2002||at Minnesota||W 41-24|
|10/10/2003||at #17 Minnesota||W 38-35|
|10/2/2005||at #21 Northwestern||W 33-17|
|12/28/2005||Nebraska||L 28-32||Alamo Bowl|
|9/29/2006||at Minnesota||W 28-14|
|10/14/2006||at Penn State||W 17-10|
|10/20/2007||at Illinois||W 27-17|
|10/10/2009||at #12 Iowa||L 28-30|
|10/30/2010||at Penn State||L 31-41|
|9/10/2011||vs Notre Dame||W 35-31||Under The Lights|
|1/3/2012||#17 Virginia Tech||W 23-20 OT||Sugar Bowl|
|9/1/2012||#2 Alabama||L 14-41||Cowboys Classic|
|9/22/2012||at #11 Notre Dame||L 6-13|
|10/27/2012||at Nebraska||L 9-23|
|9/7/2013||vs #14 Notre Dame||W 41-30||Under The Lights II|
|9/21/2013||at Connecticut||W 24-21|
|12/28/2013||Kansas State||L 14-31||Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl|
|9/6/2014||at #16 Notre Dame||L 0-31|
|10/4/2014||at Rutgers||L 24-26|
|10/11/2014||vs Penn State||W 18-13||Under The Lights III|
Michigan is 25-17 all-time in night games.
- 18-9 in road night games
- 4-8 in neutral site night games
- 3-0 in home night games
Michigan's most common night game opponent is Minnesota. This obviously due to the now-demolished Metrodome. In fact, all but 4 of 13 meetings between the two at the Metrodome were NOT played at night. (sidenote: Michigan never lost once in the Metrodome. 13-0 against the Gophers in that building).
The 1991 and 2003 Michigan-Minnesota games were played on Friday nights due to a Metrodome scheduling conflict with the Minnesota Twins who were in the MLB Playoffs in those years.
Those two Friday night games against Minnesota are Michigan's only two non-Saturday regular season games in the last 98 years. Michigan opens the season on a Thursday night at Utah in their first Thursday regular season game in 110 years.
Here are a few pieces from Michigan's first-ever night game regardless of site, back in 1944 at Marquette when they still fielded a team (via MVictors)
Over the past week or two, this community has done a fair amount of discussing what it means to be a fan, how to distinguish between a “real” fan and a “fair-weather” one, and what value might be assigned to each group. In Brian's inaugural Athletic Director post, he mentioned “sustaining the enterprise” in his three-point assessment of what an AD's job should entail - - and got some comments that he hadn't given enough attention to the fanbase. In the “Michigan Dark Secrets” thread, there were so many Body Snatcher-like accusations of “not a real fan!!” that posters started giving a disclaimer before they divulged their confession: “This may make me sound like a bad fan, but....”
So, what exactly is a fan? Hans Christian Andersen gave us a rather silly test to determine the authenticity of a royal claim in “The Princess and the Pea”, involving a legume and multiple layers of bedding. In reality, such a test is as simple as determining one's parentage; it has nothing to do with sensitivity. When it comes to fandom, however, the situation is reversed. History, parentage, even educational background have little to do with it. This forum is chock-full of Michigan maniacs who earned (or are currently earning) degrees from other institutions, even - - dare I say it? - - Ohio State and MSU. Fandom is all about sensitivity, and this makes it a rather subjective assessment.
As I perused the posts in “Michigan Dark Secrets”, I was struck by how differently passionate people can react to a single pivotal event. Some of us were unable to watch to the end of a game, when our team was being thrashed on the field of play. Some were unable to turn away. Some stopped attending games in person but watched on TV, while a few in despair had to record the contests and decide after the fact whether to watch or not. As in politics (oh no!! verboten subject!), it seems that intelligent people of good intentions with a common desire can see the path to that goal taking opposite directions.
There was, however, a thread of continuity throughout, and that was this: every Michigan fan made his decisions (whether to buy a ticket, whether to stay for the end of a game) with the athletes, the school, and the program solidly in focus. And I think this rather clinical distinction is where we all come together on the great Venn diagram. The students who petitioned and rallied for change found their drive in a desire to make Michigan athletics proud, the same drive that compelled other students to stay the course. The fans who held their ground and stayed in their seats even as their team was crumbling before them did so because they longed to give support and strength to a program they love, but so did the fans who got up and left.
Apparently, fandom cannot be quantified in a specific action or characteristic. It exists in that nebulous world of sensitivity. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously once said of defining pornography, “I know it when I see it”. In the case of fandom, I know it when I feel it.
By contrast, the “fair-weather” or bandwagon fans are, well, not fans at all. They're spectators. I don't care much about major league baseball, but hey, I live near Kansas City. When the Royals made a run last year, I bought a shirt and wore it. Yay, team! Good job! Whatever. I'll never be jumping out of my seat on an August afternoon, knocking over my neighbor's beer, to reach for a foul ball. But I'm important to that franchise (as independent voters are to political parties), because they can earn my attention and therefore, my support.
A fan's attention and support doesn't have to be earned. Even a disenchanted fan loves his team and desperately wants to regain that thrill of pride. Wolverines who went all Tasmanian Devil after the 2006 Ohio State game felt themselves redeemed in 2011, while spectators at both contests watched with interest and said, “Huh. Good game, eh?”
Let's hope that the new athletic director, be it Jim Hackett or anyone else, finds a way to “sustain the enterprise” that both re-connects the fans and catches the interest of the spectators. HARBAUGH was a magnificent first step. Winning will be a good second.
Since Michigan opens their season on a rare (and I mean rare) Thursday night game at Utah on September 3rd, I thought I'd list the history of Michigan Football on Thursdays.
It is a very rare occasion to be playing on Thursday in the regular season. When Michigan takes the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, it will be the program's first regular season Thursday game in exactly 110 years.
|11/22/1883||at Harvard||L 0-3|
|11/24/1887||at Harvard Club (Chicago)||W 26-0|
|11/29/1888||at U. Club (Chicago)||L 4-26|
|11/28/1889||at Chicago Athletic Association||L 0-20|
|11/26/1891||at Cleveland Athletic Association||L 4-8|
|11/30/1893||at Chicago||W 28-10|
|11/29/1894||at Chicago||W 6-4|
|11/28/1895||at Chicago||W 12-0|
|10/15/1896||vs Physicians & Surgeons||W 28-0|
|11/26/1896||at Chicago||L 6-7|
|11/25/1897||at Chicago||L 12-21|
|11/24/1898||at Chicago||W 12-11|
|11/30/1899||Wisconsin||L 5-17||Played in Chicago, IL|
|11/29/1900||at Chicago||L 6-15|
|11/28/1901||Iowa||W 50-0||Played in Chicago, IL|
|11/27/1902||vs Minnesota||W 23-6|
|10/8/1903||vs Albion||W 76-0|
|11/26/1903||at Chicago||W 28-0|
|11/30/1905||at Chicago||L 0-2|
|1/1/1948||#8 USC||W 49-0||Rose Bowl|
|1/1/1970||#5 USC||L 3-10||Rose Bowl|
|1/1/1976||#3 Okahoma||L 6-14||Orange Bowl|
|1/1/1987||#7 Arizona State||L 15-22||Rose Bowl|
|12/28/1995||#19 Texas A&M||L 20-22||Alamo Bowl|
|1/1/1998||#8 Washington State||W 21-16||Rose Bowl|
|1/1/2004||#1 USC||L 14-28||Rose Bowl|
Thanksgiving Day football was an early Michigan tradition. In fact, Michigan and Chicago are credited as being the originators of Thanksgiving Day football.
Michigan is 9-8 in Thanksgiving Day games, 15-14 on Thursday overall and 13-9 in Thursday regular season games.
This will be Michigan's first road game season opener that is a night game since Gary Moeller debuted as Michigan's head coach in 1990 at #1 Notre Dame.
Previously: Zak Irvin
Along with his reputation as an offensive guru, John Beilein’s become well-known at Michigan for his ability to discover under-the-radar recruits and turn them into stars.* Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas are the most-oft cited examples (along with Caris LeVert, who, like Burke and Stauskas, could become an eventual first-round draft pick), but Beilein’s found success in fleshing out his rotations with mid- or low-major recruits. In the last four recruiting cycles, Michigan developed a penchant for adding late-bloomers near the end of their senior seasons: in 2011, Max Bielfeldt; in 2012, Spike Albrecht and LeVert; in 2014, Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
*He’s also known for recruiting sons of famous NBA players and Dawkins continues that lineage.
Because of unexpected attrition and injuries to key players, Michigan’s best five-man lineup in the last month of the season featured four of those late additions: Spike, Mo, Aubrey, and Max. Though all four were seemingly recruited as depth guys, they often played as many as 30 minutes per game down the stretch. Michigan’s frustrating season quickly became unburdened from expectation and silver linings were actively sought for and discovered over the last two months of the season.
Aubrey Dawkins was the most encouraging of those “weird guys.” Before Caris LeVert’s injury in the waning seconds of the first Northwestern game, Dawkins averaged just 8.6 minutes per game and even though he was Michigan’s best player in the conference opener (hitting six threes and totaling 20 points on 9 shot equivalents), Aubrey wasn’t given much playing time. After LeVert went down, his minutes skyrocketed:
Despite taking a prep year and only fielding scholarship offers from Dayton, Cal Poly, College of Charleston, Northeastern, and Rhode Island, Dawk emerged as a high-ceiling prospect and a valuable rotational member going forward – simply put, he can get buckets and he can get them efficiently.
* * *
Checking the Eye-Test
Once he broke into the starting lineup, Dawkins’s strengths and weaknesses became quite evident. The NBA fetishizes so-called “3-and-D” prospects – players who fit neatly into the new wave of spread pick-and-roll offenses (which Michigan emulates to a certain extent) across the league. Providing spacing is an increasingly valuable trait; a guy has solid offensive value if he can stand on the perimeter and shoot 40% from three, even if he can’t do much more than that. Throw in credible (or better) defense on the wing, and you have a 3-and-D player – rapidly rising salary numbers for those types emphasize their perceived value.
Dawkins isn’t one of those guys, though he could possibly get there. His defense was bad across the board: Beilein hesitated to give him playing time early in the season and in hindsight, it’s easy to see why – he was frequently lost on the defensive end, prone to ball-watching, easily shed on screens, and beaten as the on-ball defender. His rebounding numbers were disappointing and he averaged about half a steal and half a block after his ascension to the starting lineup. Theoretically, Dawkins could develop into an adequate defender (or maybe even better than that), but as of right now, he’s decidedly a minus.
If he eventually does progress significantly as a defender – which is definitely possible – he has the offensive tools to fit the 3-and-D mold. He shot a healthy 43% from three on 88 attempts despite a funky, though consistent, release: his length and leaping ability allows him to soar over contesting defenders and he flicks the ball towards the rim with a low trajectory – almost like a shot in beer pong. Beilein drew up some sets to get Dawkins some elbow jumpers and he hit them well enough to overcome the inherent inefficiency of long twos. The “3” aspect of the 3-and-D player is definitely there and he’s shown he could handle high volume – Dawkins shot 46% on 4.5 attempts per game after cracking the rotation.
Like Tim Hardaway, another 3-and-D-without-the-D pro legacy, Dawkins can jump out of the gym, possibly his best hint towards a potential (though unlikely) pro career. I mean, just watch this emasculating throwdown over 6’11 Nnanna Egwu (and it’s impossible to watch just once). More importantly, he’s successful around the rim even when he isn’t dunking – Dawk shot 61% at the rim, per Shot Analytics. He can’t create off the bounce – remarkably, his assist rate was lower than Zak Irvin’s freshman year – but he’s clever cutting off the ball and gets close-range attempts that way (and in the same vein, Dawkins is excellent at moving around the arc to set up open looks from three). He’s a one-dimensional player: a scorer who needs to be set up by others. With Michigan’s bevy of players who can create, that’s perfectly alright.
[Hit the JUMP for the rest of the analysis]