Michigan 31, Indiana 20

Michigan 31, Indiana 20 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 17th, 2018 at 10:12 PM

Every. Single. Year.

Indiana came to the Big House having given up 482 yards to Minnesota and 542 yards to Maryland in their two games this month while putting up 385 and 374 yards, respectively. Tonight: 507 yards ceded, 385 yards gained. The yardage pattern continued for Indiana, though this time Indiana’s offense put up 5.1 yards per play on a defense that previously was allowing just 3.82 yards per play, the best in college football.

But even in a game that was a one-score contest for all but about six game minutes, the story tonight was less about what happened defensively and more about Michigan’s offense in the red zone and the players that had to be helped off the field.

Jake Moody, who found out that he was going to be the field goal kicker in the locker room before the game, converted all six of his field goal attempts. Moody hit from 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, and 23 to set a single-game Michigan record, and his reliability proved critical in a game that was as close as a typical Michigan-Indiana contest.

Michigan’s offense took just six plays to move from their 25-yard line to Indiana’s 13-yard line before two Karan Higdon runs went for –1 yards and a Shea Patterson pass to Higdon fell incomplete, leading to Moody converting his first kick of the night. A similar scenario played out on Michigan’s third drive, with a defensive pass interference call against Andre Brown on an attempted pass from Donovan Peoples-Jones to Zach Gentry moving the offense to Indiana’s 18-yard line before two short runs and an incomplete pass led to another Moody field goal.

[Injury updates woven into the narrative after THE JUMP]

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Michigan 42, Rutgers 7

Michigan 42, Rutgers 7 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 10th, 2018 at 8:17 PM

I’ve heard people say that the best way to find a good place to eat on vacation is to strike up a conversation with a local. Judging by the above photo, the locals know their Rutgers football. Rutgers put their best into this game for a certain definition of “best,” even digging a trick play out of the back of the book and deploying it late in the third quarter for a 19-yard gain on a QB-RB-QB connection. Had they scored, Rutgers would have pulled within 14. On the next play, they tried to give Michigan’s defense whiplash with a Wildcat look; Raheem Blackshear’s handoff went off the side of Isaih Pacheco, Michigan recovered the fumble, and the game was essentially over.

It took Michigan five plays to score after the fumble recovery, a touchdown that took the game from essentially to emphatically over. Four straight handoffs to Tru Wilson moved Michigan from the Rutgers 42- to their 10-yard line, at which point a beautiful backshoulder throw to Nico Collins put Michigan up 35-7. This was just one of Shea Patterson’s many inch-perfect throws on the night, which ended for him (and most of the other starters) at the conclusion of the third quarter. The offensive line should get credit for some of Patterson’s on-the-money deep shots, as they gave Patterson as much time to throw as he’s had at any point in his Michigan career and were a significant factor in Patterson finishing 18-of-27 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The run game had a quizzical outing, especially when considering how well Michigan’s line held up in pass protection and the trajectory the running backs had been on. Michigan ran the ball 40 times for a sack-adjusted 199 yards, or 4.98 yards per carry. Chris Evans, however, was responsible for 61 yards on a single carry, taking the first handoff of the fourth quarter and the first snap of Brandon Peters’ night through the middle of the line and past Rutgers’ secondary to the end zone. Removing Evans’ carry, Michigan rushed for just 3.54 yards per carry.

[After THE JUMP: how Michigan avoided the Golden Idol of trap games]

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Michigan 21, Michigan State 7

Michigan 21, Michigan State 7 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 20th, 2018 at 6:51 PM

On the surface, this game had the calling cards of an all-too-familiar script: missed opportunities, bad weather, field-flipping penalties, drive-killing turnovers, and another honest-to-goodness trash tornado. At some point any Michigan fan watching had to have seen a flag thrown or a ball popped into the air or a hot dog wrapper violently whipped back and forth against a sky that matches the concrete ring around the Spartan Stadium field and felt their stomach drop. And yet the goal posts in East Lansing are still standing, which means they’re going to be shifted for the next year in living rooms and bars and dining room tables across the state.

There is one unassailable fact, one thing completely immune to the shifting of said goal posts, and it’s that Michigan’s defense is really damn good. There has been a great deal of talk this week about ghosts around these parts—that talk carried into the game until about the three-minute mark in the third quarter—but the one who was apparently seeing them today was Brian Lewerke. Michigan State’s offensive line had trouble keeping Michigan’s defensive tackles from pushing through the middle, but the near-constant pressure came from the edges. Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Kwity Paye ate the lunch of Michigan State’s tackles; late in the third quarter, Cole Chewins decided to cut block Chase Winovich on 2nd and 10. Winovich was credited with three QB hurries on the day, Paye with one, and Uche with two sacks. My notes show about three times as many instances of QB pressure as the official stats; the presence of near constant mortal danger makes it less surprising that Lewerke was throwing seemingly everything that was targeted moderate or long out of bounds.

[Hit THE JUMP for incredible photos that I tried to put some words with]

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Michigan 42, Maryland 21

Michigan 42, Maryland 21 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 6th, 2018 at 6:25 PM

[Upchurch]

Deep in the fourth quarter, Michigan lined up from seven yards out in an offset I-form on first-and-goal. Fullback Ben Mason took his place as the deep back and Jared Wangler, the one-time linebacker, was aligned two yards behind Shea Patterson and offset to his left. Patterson took the snap, turned to his right, and faked a handoff to Mason while Wangler ran across the front, dipped inside a shuffling defensive end, and found himself all alone on the right side. Seeing Patterson rolled to his right while Wangler flattened his route and started running for the front corner of the end zone. Patterson hit him in front of the maize “N” in Michigan’s end zone scrawl, and a game that was marked by domination in all other box score metrics finally reflected that on the scoreboard.

Scoring out of a two-fullback set was extremely BIG TENNNN enough to justifiably grab the attention of Michigan twitter, but the catch was more than a novelty: it was a sign of what Michigan’s offense can be. The athleticism of Michigan’s fullbacks allowed them to play two at once without tipping run or pass, the offensive line gave the backs and quarterback time and space, Karan Higdon made smart cuts that helped keep the offense on schedule, the receivers brought in almost everything thrown their way, and the tight ends were Patterson’s go-to chain-movers. The Wolverines scored on seven of their 10 drives, including their final six.

With the exception of a flubbed kickoff that Ty Johnson took 98 yards for a touchdown, Michigan shut Maryland down, full stop. Maryland’s run game was a test for Michigan, particularly with the perfectly timed handoffs off of jet action that Maryland deployed; excising the 78 rushing yards Maryland racked up on a garbage-time drive down 28 points with four minutes left, the Terps rushed for 69 yards on 31 carries. 133 of their 220 total yards came in the fourth quarter, as did 101 of their 147 rushing yards. Maryland converted 38.5% of their third downs, which is only surprising because their average distance to go on third down was 9.3 yards and Brandon Watson's pick-six came on third down. The defensive standout today was the defense as a whole, though Tyree Kinnel, Devin Bush, Josh Ross, and Khaleke Hudson also get special mention for knowing when to fill and for holding down big gains; unsurprisingly, these four were Michigan’s leading tacklers.

[More after THE JUMP]

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Michigan 20, Northwestern 17

Michigan 20, Northwestern 17 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 29th, 2018 at 10:05 PM

[Fuller]

It’s not just that they came back to win, it's how quickly things turned in the beginning. Michigan had the braggadocio to take the ball after winning the coin toss; they were then hit squarely in the face, took a nasty shot to the body, then took another one to the face. These were not the kind of hits that come together over a long stretch to wear someone down. These were the kind that rock you to your core, that are designed to get you to pack it in and move on.

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Michigan 56, Nebraska 10

Michigan 56, Nebraska 10 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 22nd, 2018 at 5:07 PM

[Upchurch]

On a day that featured the actualization of the Platonic ideal of a Harbaugh-led offense, a legitimate argument can be made for the defense being the most impressive unit on the field. In other words, Scott Frost, so used to disputed titles, couldn't even find one phase of the game to hang his hat on. Michigan outrushed, outpassed, and, yes, outhit Nebraska en route to their most complete game of the young season.

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Michigan 45, SMU 20

Michigan 45, SMU 20 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 15th, 2018 at 9:07 PM

[Upchurch]

Sometimes you sail to a 25-point win, sometimes you grind one out. Saturday’s contest, absent the hey-hand-me-that-roster period that most expected, did little to reveal the depths of the depth chart. It did, however, reveal an increasingly efficient passing game and little else.

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Michigan 49, Western Michigan 3

Michigan 49, Western Michigan 3 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 8th, 2018 at 5:00 PM

[Fuller]

Michigan’s defense was suffocating. Michigan’s offense was a breath of fresh air. Combine that with a special teams unit that blocked a punt and almost blocked a field goal that would make Southerners condescendingly mutter “bless your heart,” and the worst thing that happened at Michigan Stadium today was the press box nearly failing to have a halftime spread. Fear not, though, as the food was delivered in time for your author to return to his seat just as the third quarter began. It was just that kind of day.

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Notre Dame 24, Michigan 17

Notre Dame 24, Michigan 17 Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 2nd, 2018 at 12:41 AM

[Barron]

An inauspicious start to the night gave way to a brief glimmer of hope. It was dim, sure, and it felt more like a mirage than a possible oasis, but it was there. This is Michigan-Notre Dame, after all, and there seemed to be some rule of the natural world that pushed close games in this series Michigan’s way. And then, on a play prior to which the stadium scoreboard had to pipe in some rawk music and remind fans to, in glittering all-caps, “GET LOUD,” hope died. Shea Patterson avoided pressure for as long as he could but encountered a group of two rushers coming free from the left side. The ball hit the turf, Te’Von Coney recovered, and the stadium whose volume hadn’t risen above a din in hours shook the press box.

That Michigan was even in the game late in the fourth quarter was a surprise give the way Notre Dame’s first two drives went. Notre Dame’s seemingly shaky quarterback situation was solved within three plays, as Brandon Wimbush found Chase Claypool for 16 yards on 3rd-and-10 and followed that with a 28-yard bomb to Miles Boykin, who was held by Lavert Hill. A facemask by Tyree Kinnel helped move Notre Dame from the 26-yard line to the 13, where Jafar Armstrong gashed Michigan’s defense for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Notre Dame started on their own four-yard line after a Higdon-powered Michigan drive stalled. They again converted on third-and-long, with Wimbush dropping a 26-yard dime to Alize Mack that resulted in 15 extra yards after Josh Metellus was called, and subsequently ejected, for targeting. Wimbush converted ND’s next third down with his feet, rushing for seven yards on 3rd-and-6. He heaved up a 43-yard bomb to the end zone for 5’10” Chris Finke on the next play, who leapt over Metellus’ replacement, 6’2” Brad Hawkins. Michigan was down two scores with three minutes left in the first quarter and the defense, the unit with so many exclamation marks and so few question marks, looked as out of sorts as they have in two years.

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[Fuller]

The defense’s problems lasted one more drive. Michigan allowed Notre Dame to march from their own 25-yard line to Michigan’s 45 when a holding penalty on Josh Ross helped Notre Dame convert on 3rd-and-3. Notre Dame then drove to Michigan’s nine-yard line when Chase Winovich sacked Wimbush on first down, pushing ND back to Michigan’s 17 on second-and-goal. Notre Dame picked up nine yards on a screen before getting a fresh set of downs when, on third-and-goal, Wimbush’s incomplete pass to Miles Boykin was erased by a Chase Winovich late hit. Notre Dame’s drive chart after that, however, looked like what we’ve come to expect from a Don Brown defense: punt, interception, punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt.

Michigan’s offensive drive chart, much to the consternation of the fan base, looked familiar, particularly in the second half: turnover on downs, turnover on downs, punt, interception, turnover on downs, touchdown, fumble. Even so, there were bright spots. Shea Patterson evaded a deluge of Notre Dame defensive linemen play after play and looked comfortable making plays outside of the pocket. Considering the pass protection, this is as vital a characteristic as can be found on this year’s team. Thankfully for Michigan, Dylan McCaffrey seems similarly talented in this area. The redshirt freshman QB was elevated to the no. 2 spot after Brandon Peters tweaked his knee in practice this week and looked good in relief of an injured Patterson (who later re-entered the game). McCaffrey entered the game early in the fourth quarter and moved Michigan from their four-yard line to Notre Dame’s 44 before pressure forced him out of the pocket on fourth down; he tried to find Karan Higdon downfield but the pass fell incomplete.

Higdon had a good game otherwise, regularly making good first cuts to eek out a few extra yards. The receiving corps was effective, snagging everything within reason Patterson and McCaffrey threw their way. Nico Collins had just three catches, though one was a 52-yard Patterson bomb on a post that breathed new life into Michigan’s opening drive of the second half; the first play of the half ended with a delay of game call on the offense, and the long reception was a one-play ticket to field goal territory (which UM botched, with a bad hold turning a likely three points into a Will Hart rush for –11 yards).

Questions abound, the most pressing of which are the result of another underwhelming performance from the offensive line. Michigan encountered a quality defensive line and made them look like a squad of four Khalil Mack clones; pass protection was less protection and more improvisation. Michigan gets a chance to work things out on the fly next weekend, when they return home to face a Western Michigan team that picked up just one sack against Syracuse.

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