Iowa 14, Michigan 13

Iowa 14, Michigan 13

Submitted by Ace on November 12th, 2016 at 11:54 PM

A Murphy's Law game.

Any number of individual plays could've changed the outcome. Most of the ones that come to mind involve Wilton Speight, who had his worst game of the year, then had injury added to insult at the end.

Speight wasn't alone in his struggles, however. Jehu Chesson missed a chance to bail his quarterback out, instead getting a third-down pass ripped from his hands by Manny Rugamba, costing the Wolverines a chance to put the game away. Khalid Hill missed an assignment that led to an early safety and lost a fumble returning the opening kickoff of the second half. Chris Evans was the only running back who could consistently get anything going. The playcalling, personnel usage, and late-game clock management will be nitpicked to death this week, and not without justification.

While the defense played well on the whole, they couldn't contain Akrum Wadley, who accounted for 167 yards on 28 touches. And, yes, there were multiple questionable calls by the notorious officiating crew led by John O'Neill.

"Not every little thing is going to go our team's way," said Jim Harbaugh. "To win, you've got to make it go your way. We didn't."

Michigan still has everything to play for, but they've lost all margin for error if they want to keep their Big Ten title and playoff dreams alive. Before they even get that far, though, they have to figure out what went wrong tonight. This game should not have been close, let alone a loss, but a number of underwhelming performances occurred in conjunction at the wrong time. There's no sugarcoating tonight.

Michigan 59, Maryland 3

Michigan 59, Maryland 3

Submitted by Ace on November 5th, 2016 at 7:59 PM


Whether passing or running, Wilton Speight dominated the air. [Bryan Fuller]

Dominance is the new normal, and this team knows it.

"There's no feeling like the feeling we have right now, and I'm not going to take that for granted," said De'Veon Smith, who rushed for 114 yards and three scores on only 19 carries.

"The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening. He's real tough to get down," Jim Harbaugh said, in perhaps the understatement of the season thus far.

Even with that production, Smith accounted for a mere fraction of Michigan's total output. That total: 660 yards on an even ten per play and a few more entries in the program record book. Wilton Speight broke a school record with 292 passing yards in the first half; he'd surpass his career high less than five minute into the third quarter. Speight finished with 362 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added a ten-yard scramble capped with a leap into the end zone.

"Statistically and just the eyeball, that's the best half of football I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback play," said Harbaugh. "Moving and throwing and accuracy and just extending plays, all of the above. I don't know how you play better."

"There was one throw that wasn't a great throw. Other than that it was a perfect game."

"Wilton had an unbelievable game today," said Jake Butt. "He keeps coming through for us when we need him most."

Butt made some history himself. On a five-catch, 76-yard day, he surpassed Jim Mandich as Michigan's all-time receiving leader among tight ends. Butt said it was "hard to take in" that he broke Mandich's record.

"You talk about [Ron] Kramer and Mandich, [Eric] Kattus, some tremendous tight ends have come through here. I know I'm leaving some out," said Harbaugh. "Most catches, most yards for a Michigan tight end is a great accomplishment."

Jehu Chesson, meanwhile, had a bounce-back game, hauling in five catches for 112 yards and one of the easier touchdowns he'll ever have when Maryland let him slip behind the defense. That was a bit of a theme; Michigan's first score came when Amara Darboh was all alone on a post route, and when the backups took over, Kekoa Crawford found himself similarly forsaken and caught his first career touchdown for the final score of the day.

Harbaugh was "bewildered" by the call marking Chris Evans short of the end zone. That's one word for it. [Eric Upchurch]

For the offense, there was little to complain about, save a couple calls that didn't go Michigan's way. Drake Harris had a long catch negated by a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call, and Chris Evans got marked just short of the goal line after a spectacular juggling catch and weaving run through the Terrapin defense.

"It offends my football sensibility in all ways that he didn't get a touchdown," said Harbaugh, who threw his hat several yards in the air after the call. "I think that would offend the football gods, as well."

Michigan mostly didn't need offensive contributions from Jabrill Peppers, but they got an early highlight when Peppers took a pitch, then threw it back to Speight, who launched a 40-yard bomb to Chesson. Peppers had a couple carries for 19 yards and added another TFL to ever-rising tally on defense. Asked after the game if he was trying to bolster Peppers's Heisman candidacy with "flashy" plays on offense, Harbaugh said he's simply utilizing Peppers as he should be utilized.

"It's just happening organically. It happens au naturale. He just does so much," said Harbaugh. "It doesn't have to be a forced thing. Au naturale." With a chuckle, Harbaugh added that his quarterback should perhaps be under consideration for the Heisman, too.


Whether on offense or defense, Peppers's contributions are "au naturale." [Fuller]

Despite holding Maryland to 367 yards, there were some worrisome moments for the defense. The Terps had a clear gameplan to test Michigan on the edge with outside runs and tunnel screens, and those plays found success—Mike McCray and Channing Stribling, in particular, had tough games holding trying to hold those plays down. Maryland nearly had a touchdown on a tunnel to DJ Moore at the very end of the first half, but Dymonte Thomas kept the play in front of him long enough for McCray to chase him down from behind; the clock expired with the Terps on Michigan's one-yard line.

Those deficiencies will get plenty of attention over the weeks to come, and Ohio State's coaching staff surely took note. That shouldn't totally overshadow an otherwise dominant outing from the defense, though. Maryland averaged just 2.7 yards per carry; the non-screen passing game was non-existent; the Wolverines had three sacks and ten additional TFLs. As in seemingly every other contest this year, Michigan knocked the starting quarterback out of the game, and Caleb Rowe was a clear downgrade from Perry Hills—he threw two interceptions to Delano Hill that Hill deemed "gifts" after the game.

A road night game at Iowa awaits. While that looked like a huge test entering the season, it now appears to be another golden opportunity for Michigan to make a statement to not only the conference, but the entire country. They're two more dominant outings away from having everything to play for in The Game.

Don't take it for granted.

Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

Submitted by Ace on October 29th, 2016 at 4:57 PM


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

You reap what you sow.

Facing a fourth-and-goal down 20 points in the fourth quarter, Mark Dantonio went the James Franklin route and called for a field goal. The football gods did not look kindly upon this act of cowardice; Michael Geiger missed the 34-yard attempt.

Dantonio almost certainly regretted that decision when the Spartans cut it to a two-score game midway through the fourth. Instead of having a shot at a miracle, they ran out of time—a Donnie Corley touchdown catch with a second remaining on the clock only brought the deficit to seven. To keep up appearances, or something like that, Dantonio called for a two-point conversion.

This also backfired, and in spectacular fashion. Jabrill Peppers capped a game worthy of a Heisman contender by returning an MSU fumble 98 yards for two points. The subsequent onside kick that didn't matter bounced harmlessly out of bounds, and Peppers got one final opportunity to display his athleticism when, perhaps as an homage to Braylon Edwards, he backflipped following the victory-formation kneeldown.


[Fuller]

While it wasn't the blowout most expected, it wasn't as close as the final score indicates, either. Michigan absorbed MSU's best shot on the opening drive, a 12-play, 75-yard march featuring 11 LJ Scott touches capped by a five-yard TD run. The Wolverines hit back by going 80 yards in eight plays with Eddie McDoom's 20-yard jet sweep setting up a three-yard Jabrill Peppers keeper to even the score. They gained the upper hand on the ensuing possession when Maurice Hurst slashed into the backfield to force Gerald Holmes into the unforgiving grasp of Peppers on a fourth-and-one.

From that point forward, Michigan was in command. Two De'Veon Smith touchdowns—one featuring a delighful smashing of Riley Bullough at the goal line—and a Kenny Allen field goal were the result of the next three Wolverine possessions, and MSU could only muster a field goal in the interim; Smith's second score gave M a 24-10 lead with 33 seconds left in the half, and it seemed safe to assume that would be the halftime score.

Tyler O'Connor had other plans, which quickly went awry. Instead of running out the clock, O'Connor heaved a pass towards RJ Shelton while under heavy duress from Taco Charlton, and Jourdan Lewis got his hands under it for the pick. Michigan got off four plays in 27 seconds; Amara Darboh, who had a career-high 165 yards in his best game as a Wolverine, drew a pass interference in the end zone to set up a chip shot Allen field goal as the half came to a close. Suddenly, it was a three-score game.


[Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

The 27-10 halftime margin would hold for the entire third quarter due to the goal-line heroics of the defense. In an otherwise stellar game, Wilton Speight made a significant error to open the second half, failing to see MSU corner Darian Hicks while targeting Karan Higdon on a wheel route. Hicks cut off the throw for an interception, and within two plays the Spartans had a first-and-goal.

Michigan State ran seven plays inside Michigan's ten-yard line on that possession, getting second life when Peppers was hit with a pass interference flag on third down. On play seven, Lewis crashed down on a fourth-down pitch to Scott and upended him in the backfield, ending the drive with authority.

After Kenny Allen struck a 45-yarder true to begin the fourth quarter, MSU went into desperation mode, inserting Damion Terry at quarterback on the ill-fated field goal drive, then switching to Brian Lewerke after a Michigan punt. The offense couldn't quite put the Spartans away, however, and Lewerke had a chance to make it a one-score game on fourth down with a little under two minutes on the clock.

The defensive line got serious heat on Lewerke, however, and Peppers cleaned up with a crushing sack. Michigan wore down some clock before MSU's desultory final drive while Jon Falk brought the Paul Bunyan trophy back to its rightful place in the Wolverine locker room.

Michigan State has lost six in a row. Michigan is 8-0 with one rival in the clear and three games to get through before a potential Big Ten East title game. While it took one year longer than any of us wanted, the in-state rivalry is, at long last, as it should be.

Michigan 41, Illinois 8

Michigan 41, Illinois 8

Submitted by Ace on October 22nd, 2016 at 7:45 PM


Karan Higdon rushed for 106 yards on eight carries. [Bryan Fuller]

We're running out of nitpicks.

Michigan dominated another overmatched foe, outgaining Illinois 561-172, and in the aftermath there was very little to complain about.

Even the Rutgers game featured a slow start from the offense. That did not happen today, as Jim Harbaugh utilized a dizzying array of formations, personnel, and misdirection to conduct a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Jake Butt finished it off with a screamingly open three-yard touchdown out of the now-legendary "Train" pre-snap look.

Wilton Speight had been a culprit in those previous slow starts, and generally shaky over the last few weeks. Today, he was as sharp as he's been all year, connecting on 16-of-23 passes for 253 yards. He was responsible for the first two touchdowns, the short toss to Butt and a play-action strike to Tyrone Wheatley Jr. from 21 yards out. Neither was his best throw of the day; that would be a 30-yard post route to Amara Darboh he fit between multiple defenders. His numbers could've been even better if a couple close-call deep balls had been hauled in.

"I think Wilton Speight may have had one of his best games of the year," said Jim Harbaugh. "Whether we were going into the wind, with the wind. He was throwing that intermediate, deep stuff—those 30-, 40-yard throws—just on the money."

Speight mentioned that he'd spent the bye week poring over film from the first six games in order to correct mistakes. The hard work showed in his play.

Michigan had a surprise reshuffling of the offensive line, replacing Juwann Bushell-Beatty at left tackle with Ben Braden and moving Ben Bredeson into the lineup at left guard. While Braden got beat for a sack—on a play in which Speight was partially culpable for holding onto the ball too long—the pass protection was generally good, and the run game flourished.

Even with ample garbage-time totes by walk-ons, Michigan averaged five yards per non-sack carry. Karan Higdon led the way with 106 yards on only eight carries, including a weaving 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap the day's scoring.

"His acceleration, his vision, everything is improving," Harbaugh said. "When he gets to the second level he's got a really good gear to him."


Michigan only had one sack but Jeff George Jr. was under siege. [Eric Upchurch]

Facing third-string walk-on Jeff George Jr., the defense was nearly as dominant as they were against Rutgers. George went 0-for-7 in the first half with an interception when Dymonte Thomas jumped a screen pass one play after Michigan's first failed offensive drive.

"It's about time," Thomas said. This was his first career interception, and apparently the rest of the defense had been rather critical of his hands.

Malik Turner accounted for 86 yards and a touchdown on two catches, both after the game was well in hand. Those two plays accounted for precisely half of the Illini yardage. Turner capitalized on a mismatch with Ben Gedeon on the first. On the touchdown, Delano Hill misplayed a hopeful heave by George to allow Turner to come down with it.

Even the game's most disappointing drives had positive outcomes. Illinois's first big play, a 45-yard run by Ke'Shawn Vaughn out of the wildcat, ended when Jabrill Peppers sprinted him down from the opposite side of the field. The drive ended with a punt four plays later. On the other side, Michigan had two drives stall in Illinois territory in the third quarter; Kenny Allen salvaged both with 23- and 27-yard field goals, a welcome sight given his recent struggles.

The most significant concerns were injury-related. Chris Evans took a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him unconscious on his only carry. Harbaugh said after the game that Evans had recovered relatively well by the time he saw him at halftime, but that's obviously something to monitor heading into next week. Khalid Hill went to the locker room after the third quarter and did not return; there wasn't an update on him after the game. Grant Perry sat out the game with what Harbaugh admitted, after some prying, was a disciplinary issue.

Well, there was one other concern. At the end of his presser, Harbaugh asked whether anyone had seen a replay of the late review—on which Harbaugh challenged the spot on a third-down catch with two minutes left, up 41-8. He was outwardly perplexed as to how the officials could get that call wrong. Michigan, of course, managed to overcome this tragic miscarriage of justice by converting the fourth down on a Bobby Henderson dive, then kneeling out the clock.

Now they're on to Michigan State. It's time to right some more wrongs.

"No question about it," Harbaugh said, responding to a question about whether they'd move on quickly to the MSU game. "Big game. Championship game for our team.  We celebrate all wins, but we'll get on pretty quickly to our next opponent."

Michigan 78, Rutgers 0

Michigan 78, Rutgers 0

Submitted by Ace on October 8th, 2016 at 10:49 PM



[Photo: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

Rutgers punted 16 times tonight, surpassing the 1938 University of Chicago team for the second-most by a Michigan opponent in a single game.*

The University of Chicago abolished their football program in 1939.

Win with cruelty.

------------
*Ohio State, with 21, is the record-holder thanks to the ludicrous 1950 Snow Bowl.

Michigan 49, Penn State 10

Michigan 49, Penn State 10

Submitted by Ace on September 24th, 2016 at 8:04 PM


[Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

Karan Higdon ran in for a touchdown from two yards out. The Michigan Stadium crowd responded with a polite golf clap.

The first half wasn't over.

The same couldn't be said for the competitive portion of the game. Higdon's run gave the Wolverines a 28-0 lead heading into halftime. At that point, they'd outgained Penn State by 209 yards; star running back Saquon Barkley had 66 of PSU's 50 total yards. That is not a typo.

The two teams didn't look like they belonged on the same field, and apparently James Franklin agreed. PSU opened the second half by forcing a three-and-out, then mounting their only sustained drive of the game thus far, getting deep into Michigan territory before facing a fourth-and-goal from the two. Franklin sent out the field goal unit to turn a four-score game into a four-score game. He sent them back out after calling a timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty. The kick was good; it was also a white flag.

Jim Harbaugh did not share that mindset. Michigan's opening touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal plunge by Khalid Hill, and a nine-yard Wilton Speight scramble(!) on a fourth-and-seven set up Higdon's half-ending score; Michigan would go for two more and come up short, but they didn't take the foot off the gas until the game's final minutes.

"It's just cool that he knows we'll pick it up," said Speight. "We know that his mindset is to smash it in for a touchdown, too. It's cool that we're all on the same page."

"Especially the one way where we were going into the wind, we thought the odds were better going for fourth downs," said Harbaugh.

One team played to win. The other played to survive.


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Michigan dominated from the outset. They sacked PSU QB Trace McSorley twice on the first drive. Jabrill Peppers nearly housed the ensuing punt; after a sideline infraction moved the offense back to the Penn State 24-yard line, Wilton Speight completed three straight passes to get the team in a goal-to-go situation before Hill ultimately squeezed his way into the end zone. Michigan would finish with six rushing touchdown by five backs; five came from three yards out or fewer, with the only exception a 40-yard sprint draw to Higdon in the fourth quarter.

"I was really impressed with the running backs. All of them contributed in big ways," said Harbaugh, before naming all five backs—Higdon, Hill, De'Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans—who crossed the goal line. "Moving the chains and breaking some big runs—it was a good way to move the ball."

It was indeed. Michigan bounced back from a couple sub-par rushing performances between the tackles and made Penn State's banged-up front look completely outmatched. The Wolverines covered 326 yards at 6.7 per carry, and in a big change from the first three games, only five of those yards came from a receiver. Smith led the way with 107 yards on only 12 carries; Higdon, Isaac, and Evans each had over 50 yards, and all the backs looked sharp.

It was no coincidence the offensive line had their best performance of the year, opening big holes up front and not allowing a sack. Speight mentioned in the postgame presser that Michigan ran the same run play eight or nine times in a row, with the only variation being whether they ran left or right. That third-quarter drive culminated in a three-yard TD by Evans to put Michigan up 35-3 and remove any shred of doubt about the outcome.

"I started laughing," Speight said of seeing the same call signaled in from the sideline so many times in a row.

"I thought our team was prepared and confident. There was some communication out there, especially from the offensive linemen, of what they thought they could do well," said Harbaugh. "We listened to them and repeated the call a few times. It was simply that."

Speight wasn't asked to do much through the air, but he was capable when called upon, going 21-for-34 for 189 yards and a short TD pass to freshman TE Devin Asiasi. He didn't look worse for wear after a rough outing against Colorado.

On the other side of the ball, the defense was unrelenting after welcoming Jourdan Lewis and Taco Charlton back to the lineup. Barkley had a couple moments, but he had little in the way of help.

"That's a good back. Saquon Barkley is really good." said Harbaugh. "But our guys were there and they were swarming."

Nine defenders combined for 13 tackles for loss; five were responsible for the six sacks. Mo Hurst, looking quite healthy, led the way with three TFLs and a sack.

The only downer came when Jeremy Clark suffered an apparent non-contact knee injury on a fourth-quarter kickoff. He required a cart to get to the locker room, and Harbaugh didn't mince words after the game, saying "we think it's a season-ender."

That will be something to overcome next week, when Michigan will host a top-ten matchup with Wisconsin, which is coming off a blowout of Michigan State. The Wolverines will enter that game as the winningest program in the country after today's win coupled with a Notre Dame loss to Duke—I'll pause here for laughter—gave the good guys the edge in win percentage again.

The Badgers will provide a stiffer contest. It would be difficult for them not to do so.

Michigan 45, Colorado 28

Michigan 45, Colorado 28

Submitted by Ace on September 17th, 2016 at 8:00 PM


Jabrill Peppers left the Buffaloes (and his coach) in awe. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

After one quarter, Colorado had a 21-7 lead, outgained Michigan 195 yards to 66, and flat-out looked like the better team.

"We knew it wouldn't be a fairy tale all year," said Jake Butt. "We knew we'd get punched in the face."

Michigan punched back, hard. The Buffaloes gained 130 yards for the rest of the game. Michigan had 331. If Kenny Allen hadn't missed a pair of field goals, the Wolverines even would've covered the 20-point spread.

Early on, Colorado's up-tempo offense and athletic defense caught the Wolverines by surprise. Jabrill Peppers was caught out of position on a deep post for Colorado's first touchdown, then the Buffs went up by 14 less than a minute later when Chidobe Awuzie forced a Wilton Speight fumble that Derek McCartney took back 18 yards for a score. Speight, either shaken or hurt on the hit, had a tough time dialing in after that. If not for a blocked punt by Michael Jocz that Grant Perry took in for a touchdown, Colorado would've exited the first quarter up by 21 after another Sefo Liufao touchdown pass.

Then Michigan adjusted. The defensive front got to Liufau time and again, eventually forcing him out of the game with an apparent ankle injury, though not before Liufau somehow bombed a 70-yard touchdown off one leg to Shay Fields to open the second-half scoring. They shut down the Colorado running game entirely, and the Fields touchdown was the only big play after a first quarter full of them. Don Brown is paid good money for a reason.


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

The offense slowly but surely picked it up, too. With Khalid Hill leading the way in authoritative fashion, Jehu Chesson got the corner for a 17-yard jet sweep touchdown. Amara Darboh gave Michigan the proverbial momentum swing they needed on a 45-yard screen, stiff-arming a defender to the ground on his way to the end zone with only 33 seconds left in the half. Despite a disastrous start, Michigan led 24-21 at the break.

Colorado landed another big shot with the Fields touchdown. Michigan responded in kind with a pitch to De'Veon Smith on the second play of the ensuing drive; Smith hardly had to do anything on a 42-yard jaunt down the sideline on perhaps the best-blocked run play of this young season. The Wolverines finally grabbed control of the game when a long catch-and-run by Grant Perry set up a one-yard touchdown for Ty Isaac to give M a 38-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Then Jabrill Peppers, having a remarkable all-around game, launched his Heisman campaign. Peppers already had three punt returns and a kickoff return that were a block or two away from reaching the end zone when Colorado lined up to punt from deep in their own territory; a line-drive kick went right to Peppers's chest, and he exploded up the middle, overcoming a cramp at the five-yard line to at long last tally his first return touchdown in a Michigan uniform.

"It was definitely a sense of relief," said Peppers. "If I don't score there, then they needed to put someone else back there."

Peppers's overall stat line boggles the mind: two rushes for 24 yards, four punt returns for 99 yards and a TD, two kickoff returns for 81 yards, nine tackles (six solo), 3.5 TFLs, and a thunderous sack.

"Above all, Jabrill Peppers proved that he was the best player in today's game," said Jim Harbaugh, who praised the talent level on both teams. "We don't win that game without Jabrill Peppers."

"That's a team effort, but... wow," Harbaugh added.

Peppers wasn't the only Paramus Catholic graduate to provide some honest-to-god wow experiences. Rashan Gary recorded 1.5 TFLs and a pair of QB hurries; even better, he eliminated the mental errors that allowed UCF to pick up big gains on the ground last week. 

Michigan leaves this game with plenty to work on. Dymonte Thomas, Delano Hill, and Peppers all had coverage busts that led to big plays. Speight's performance didn't equal those he had in the season's first two weeks. Allen, who looked either injured or overwhelmed by his workload, struggled in all phases of the kicking game.

"To be honest I think we did [need a game like this]," said Butt. "We can look back and learn from this."

With Penn State and Wisconsin up next on the schedule, it won't take long to find out how well they've learned those lessons.

Michigan 51, UCF 14

Michigan 51, UCF 14

Submitted by Ace on September 10th, 2016 at 4:15 PM


Tyree Kinnel got his hand on not one, but two punts. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

I can't sum it up any better than this guy did:

Tyree Kinnel deflected two UCF punts, Chris Wormley blocked two field goals, and Khaleke Hudson demolished a kick returner who appeared to be going out for a light jog. The Knights took an illegal block penalty on a kickoff touchback, sent out 12 players for a punt return, and muffed a short kickoff for a Jordan Glasgow recovery.

So that covers the special teams.

Wilton Speight took advantage of a UCF defense intent on loading the box against the run with several pinpoint throws downfield, finishing 25-for-37 for 312 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. The usual suspects led the way among the receivers; Jake Butt had two touchdowns among his seven catches, Amara Darboh cross the goal line twice and broke the hundred-yard mark, and Jehu Chesson needed only four receptions to tally 84 yards. That more than made up for the running game, which couldn't get much going agianst eight- and nine-man boxes; even with sacks and a punt gone wrong removed, Michigan averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. Fullback Khalid Hill plunged in for two touchdowns, at least, so it wasn't all bad on the ground.


Upchurch

The defense, meanwhile, limited quarterbacks Justin Holman—who exited the game in the first half with an apparent injury—and Nick Patti to a combined 6-for-22, 56-yard performance. A few errors—one of which may have been on the officials—led to an 87-yard touchdown run for Adrian Killins, and the Knights were able to rack up 275 yards on the ground, with a healthy chunk of that coming when the QBs broke contain.

While many fans were concerned about the line play, one Jim Harbaugh didn't share that worry.

"I thought the lines really took care of business today," said Harbaugh. "Both the offensive and defensive lines did a very good job."

Quarterback contain, he admitted, was an issue, but one that he believed Don Brown made the proper adjustments for in the second half.

Rashan Gary had his first big game as a Wolverine, tearing off the edge for his first career half-sack (Ben Gedeon arrived simultaneously) and had two more tackles for loss. Seven different Michigan defenders tallied tackles in the backfield, and Jabrill Peppers was everywhere—he led the team with eight tackles (two for loss), had two QB hurries, and returned a line-drive punt 35 yards deep into UCF territory to set up Butt's second score.

If there's any indication that Michigan has returned to form, it's that the crowd didn't seem satisfied with a 37-point win. Against an overmatched opponent that couldn't even reliably get a kick in the air untouched, the coaches had no need to utilize much of the playbook, which led to some ugly plays but won't reveal anything to Colorado, next week's opponent and Michigan's first that appears to have a pulse.

Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

Submitted by Ace on September 3rd, 2016 at 4:13 PM


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.

Michigan 41, Florida 7

Michigan 41, Florida 7

Submitted by Ace on January 1st, 2016 at 4:56 PM


[File photo: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

Through the first half of the season Jake Rudock looked more like a liability than a solution at quarterback.

That felt like a distant memory as Rudock picked apart the vaunted Florida secondary, becoming the second Michigan quarterback (John Navarre) to surpass 3,000 single-season passing yards in the process. Rudock connected on 20/31 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns and looked like a completley different player from the one that threw three picks at Utah to open the season.

Even with Jabrill Peppers sidelined due to a hand injury, Michigan looked like a team peaking in bowl season and ready to carry that momentum into 2016. De'Veon Smith, perhaps unencumbered by the turf toe he'd dealt with all season, had some extra pep in his step; more importantly, he knew where to take that step, showing much-improved vision on his way to a 109-yard afternoon.

The O-line stymied a Florida pass rush that ranked among the best in the country. Jehu Chesson repeatedly won one-on-one battles with balleyhooed cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, a projected top-ten NFL draft pick, including a hitch-and-go touchdown that broke the game open. Grant Perry emerged with a couple big grabs and his first career score. If Rudock can be satisfactorily replaced, all the pieces are there for the offense to break out in 2016.

The defense, meanwhile, limited an overmatched Gators offense to 262 yards. Florida couldn't hit a big play—their longest gain went for 27 yards—and didn't have a means to stay ahead of the chains outside of a few scattered scrambles by quarterback Treon Harris, who had to deal with plenty of pressure from Michigan's front four. When Harris lost his composure, the Wolverines took advantage, most notably on a Jarrod Wilson interception in the end zone with the Gators threatening to answer Chesson's long TD.

The special teams battle hardly came into play, but Michigan won that, too. Channing Stribling intercepted the holder's pitch when Florida faked a field goal on their opening drive; long after the game had been decided, a cavalcade stuffed a fake punt in the backfield.

Rudock teared up in the televised interview following his final collegiate game. Jim Harbaugh is done working his magic with Rudock, who guided a limited team to ten wins in their first year in a new system. When this team reconvenes in the spring, most of the talent from today's blowout will be back, and if Harbaugh has coaxed similar improvement from the other quarterbacks on the roster, they'll be poised for a run at the playoff.