Michigan 36, Cincinnati 14 Comment Count

Ace September 9th, 2017 at 4:41 PM

[Bryan Fuller]

Michigan's home opener was supposed to look a lot like last year's Rutgers game. Instead, it more closely resembled last week's Florida game. While that was perfectly fine against a talented UF squad, it was far less so against an overmatched Cincinnati team that barely squeaked by Austin Peay last week.

The game began as expected. Ty Isaac churned out yards with ease, setting up a 43-yard Wilton Speight touchdown bomb to a wide open Kekoa Crawford on the opening drive. The defense held up its end, booting Cincinnati off the field in three plays. While the Wolverines went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, Tyree Kinnel got them back on track, picking off an overthrow from UC's Hayden Moore and diving into the end zone for a 28-yard pick-six.

Then things started going sideways. A short punt by the Bearcats bounced off Nate Johnson's leg, giving Cincinnati a first down on the Michigan 38-yard line. After a penalty kept the drive alive, Mike Boone squeezed his way in from a yard out for the first touchdown scored against the M defense this season. The next Wolverine drive stalled in the red zone, and Quinn Nordin's 28-yard field goal opened one of the uglier quarters Michigan has played under Jim Harbaugh.

Seemingly nothing could go right on offense in the second quarter. Speight fumbled a jet sweep handoff to Crawford to kill a promising drive. Tarik Black ran what, on review, turned out to be an 11-yard route on third-and-12 to end the next one. Speight winged a couple passes high, evoking bad memories of last week's second quarter.

Michigan didn't get a first-half point after Nordin's field goal with 14:03 left. The defense didn't give up any, either, but only after an interminable final drive by Cincinnati resulted in a 51-yard field goal sailing wide right. As the team ran into the tunnel, the fans were audibly displeased with the 17-7 halftime lead.

[Eric Upchurch]

The grumbling continued into the third quarter as Cincinnati took the kickoff and marched 85 yards in ten plays to cut the lead to three points. Michigan's next two drives went nowhere. What had been an annoyingly close game was becoming a potential nightmare.

Thankfully, Michigan woke up. With 3:01 left in the third quarter, Speight hit Grant Perry in stride on a crossing route, and Perry jetted through the Bearcats secondary and dove in for a 33-yard touchdown. Cincinnati could only threaten to score after that. Michigan's offense, meanwhile, piggybacked off some excellent running by Isaac to drive for a short Quinn Nordin field goal midway through the fourth quarter.

Luke Fickell handled the rest. On fourth-and-two from the Cincinnati 33, down two scores with seven minutes remaining, he called for the punt team. One yakety snap later, Michigan had a safety and the ball back, and the potential nightmare was over. The next UC drive ended after one play when Lavert Hill cut off a Moore pass, reversed field, and slipped inside the pylon for M's second defensive touchdown of the afternoon.

By pure box score standards, this game turned out well. Michigan outgained Cincinnati 414-200, dominated the ground game, and kept Moore under constant pressure. Speight, for all the complaining, completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. Isaac seemingly cemented himself as the lead back with a 20-carry, 137-yard performance.

Still, it's difficult to shake the feeling of the middle two quarters, which were indisputably ugly. The offense has some issues to work out, especially in the red zone, where they haven't scored a touchdown since the wrongfully negated Crawford catch to open the Florida game. Next week, Air Force presents another overmatched opponent, but one that's tricky to prepare for because of their unusual schemes on both sides of the ball. If Michigan doesn't bounce back with a more authoratative win, the good feeling from the Florida game won't carry over to Big Ten play.



September 9th, 2017 at 4:45 PM ^

I think, in general, it turned out there was a massive overreaction to Cinci's last game to Austin Peay. They were still #73 overall on S&P and had the #39 ranked defense. They could be a decent team.

Still, very disappointing. The fact that Peters isn't close to Speight is very concerning. It looks like he might have been a miss. Hopefully, we hit on McCaffery and Milton. Speight is just playing like the middling 3 star recruit he was.  Very, very limited. We've missed on a few OT's too the last 2 recruiting classes and that, along with the Newsome injury, has hurt as well.

WR's/TE's look talented but very young. As expected. You'd just hope the offense would look better in year 3.


September 9th, 2017 at 4:51 PM ^

Can we wait until the kid plays a snap of competitive college football before labeling him a bust?  I mean, if he's still riding the pine as a redshirt junior, fine.  But not everyone is ready to start in the second game of his redshirt freshman season, especially over an incumbent starter upperclassman.

With your logic, Michigan would never have played Brian Griese, or Tom Brady, or... just about everybody up through Chad Henne, and that was only due to injury.


September 9th, 2017 at 4:53 PM ^

think you need to pump the breaks before you declare that Peters may be a bust.  I agree that the continued high throws from Speight are a problem.

I don't know if anyone else noticed, but the batted ball by the defense in the second half when Speight checked down and tried to throw to the sideline was fortuitous for Michigan.  I think it would have been a pick 6 as there was a defender breaking on the receiver.


September 9th, 2017 at 6:36 PM ^

I was screaming at the TV. That was probably a pick 6. The more horrible part, is that the upside would've been a 2 yard completion. The risk/reward there is obviously not good. The only way I can make sense of it, is if he was just throwing it away out of bounds in the direction of the flat, but it didn't look like that was aimed high enough to be a throw away. I think he got bailed out by the bat down.


September 9th, 2017 at 5:08 PM ^

Agree that Speight still looks like a 3* QB, but too early to declare Peters a bust.  I'm just really disappointed he isn't going to be a contributer as an underclassman.  I was strongly hoping he would pass Wilton on the depth chart.

I continue to wonder if his low throwing motion is part of the reason he regularly overthrows his target.  I was trusting that Harbuagh would fix the problem, but it sure doesn't look like it.



September 9th, 2017 at 5:25 PM ^

we got to remember that young young and learning. this is the words for 2017. i give it a couple of years. the qb is another question. i hope he improves and we have a good one backing him up. i think we should look at the young ones. we still have some games to improve. if not we are screwed. 


September 9th, 2017 at 5:28 PM ^

speight is playing for one reason and one reason only, experience. but i really get a sense that he is working his way out of the lineup. he really seems mistake prone, which is the worst thing a qb can be.

   not happy with the performance, but im sure the coaches arnt either. this is the result of over reactions to each weeks games. let it play out and see what happens. there is one guy on here already has psu and osu kicking michigans ass. why even bother playing?


September 9th, 2017 at 11:57 PM ^

don't think that Speight was that bad.  He missed a couple of throws.  I will be interested to see how the OL grades out because at first glance it wasn't good.  The thing I can't see is the receiver routes.  It's possible that maybe the routes were less that ideal.

I rarely question play calling, but there were a couple in this game that I scratched my head on.  In particular, on the 3rd and 2 on the Cinci 3 or 4 yard line it looked like Michigan ran Power O with Bredeson pulling.  I hate running Power O near the goal line because it takes longer to develop and a well timed blitz into that gap can blow up the play, which is what I think happened.  I like Panda or ISO on that play.  The play where they had 3rd and long and threw a 0 yard pass to Tarik Black seemed odd.  It may well be that the Cinci player just made a great play or that one of Michigan's other receivers did not execute their assignment.


September 9th, 2017 at 5:58 PM ^

How you cannot be worried now is odd homerism.  Cincy was one dropped, wide open bomb from making this a nail biter all the way down to the end.  That missed catch was so easy I had to wonder if that receiver wasn't related to a bookie.  

Our D was exposed as not all world, but rather damn good, but quite susceptible to tunnel screens and rub routes.

Our O was exposed as an offensive line with zero, if any leap from last year's mediocrity.  Same can be said for QB.  Might not be on the players, but on the OC, but either way, it's on somebody.

Visions of 11-1 are now visions of 9-3 at best.  Really just very, very disappointed at the lack of OL and QB improvement.  Season is young, still trust the coaching staff to make some more changes, but am absolutely worried now.

Cake Or Death

September 10th, 2017 at 5:17 PM ^

that 9-3 is viewed as a tremendous disappointment again.  For those of us who were used to 8-4 as the worst possible year ever to be on the other side of 2008-14 now is so much better.  

I look forward to the team getting better as the season goes on.


September 10th, 2017 at 12:58 AM ^

The wr was locked up with the DB on what you called a rub route. That was offensive pi despite the announcer saying it was ok because the DB was in press man and touched him first. Bump and run does not mean an offense can just block db to spring other wrs.
Really, you just need to take a step from the ledge. This is a very young team. Young teams play down to inferior opponents.
Osu's national title team was very young too, and got beat early by a average vt team. They got there feet under them and got in groove.


September 10th, 2017 at 11:48 AM ^

Cincy was one dropped, wide open bomb from making this a nail biter all the way down to the end.

And Mich was two botched hand-offs, a weak Hill interference call, and a weird bounce on a punt away from a total blow out.  Mistakes and luck usually go both ways.

an offensive line with zero, if any leap from last year's mediocrity.

For now, yes.  Please remember that 3/5 of the line is redshirt/true sophomore.  Growth is probable.


September 9th, 2017 at 5:03 PM ^

Next week, the offense needs to be much better as AF will milk the clock with their style of play. We will have a limited number of possessions.

I'm worried bout stopping them as we'll. Prior to today's outing I thought at least we could simply out score them. Not sure about that now!


September 9th, 2017 at 6:30 PM ^

Florida seemed like they wanted to be spread to run and Cinci seemed to be spread to pass so the 3-3-5 worked well vs both. Now triple option probably drives us back to a standard 4-3 right? I can't imagine 3 down linemen will go well vs Air Force


September 10th, 2017 at 12:30 AM ^

Don Brown has been prepping for Air Force since Spring. I strongly suspect that the defensive gameplan was kept pretty vanilla this week and wouldn't be at all surprised if they had repped tripe option stuff, or at least introduced some concepts for it. It didn't look like anything was called today that was installed to deal with Cincinnatti.