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.

The offense looked good for one play, a quick throw to Gentry in the flat out of a tight bunch that picked up a first down on the first play from scrimmage, before drawing grumbles. Pre-snap confusion forced Michigan to call a timeout on the next play, which was followed by a Juwann Bushell-Beatty false start. Michigan picked up four yards on their next three plays and was forced to punt, doing nothing to quell the fire and fury of a fanbase scorned.

An apparent run-fit issue resulted in a 25-yard rush from LeVante Bellamy on Western’s first offensive snap. Bellamy then picked up one yard on a reception before Jon Wassink sailed a pass, then nearly had his next attempt intercepted. Michigan’s offense got the ball back and took the game over from there.

Shea Patterson got things going with the improvisational skill he was lauded for as a recruit and during his time in Oxford, firing a cross-body dart into a miniscule window along the sideline for Oliver Martin. Karan Higdon then moved the offense from Michigan’s 33-yard line to Western’s 16 in three plays, including a weaving 43-yard carry that saw him make all the right cuts. Patterson hit McKeon in the flat off a waggle on the next play, and as McKeon turned up the sideline he found a way to undulate his body over the pylon.

Michigan’s next offensive drive lasted one play, as Karan Higdon popped through a hole to his left on what looked like a pin-and-pull, then outran everyone—his own blockers included—before tight-roping the home sideline past a pursuing safety and into the north end zone. Higdon ended the day with 13 carries for 156 yards.

 

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[Fuller]

Michigan’s run game was excellent in all facets; the offensive line blocked well, the tight ends (Gentry and McKeon in particular) were moving defenders, and three backs averaged 8.6 yards or more per carry. Chris Evans had 10 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns, including one where he made a missed pull right by recovering from a shot that knocked him off balance and diving into the newly blue-painted end zone.

The passing game was similarly excellent, with nine different players recording a catch and four scoring touchdowns. Shea Patterson finished 12-of-17 for 125 yards and three touchdowns and showed impressive accuracy in and out of the pocket. His prettiest throw of the day came on a redzone play during which the offensive line allowed plenty of time to dial up a perfectly placed ball that gave Donovan Peoples-Jones room to take two full steps before going out of bounds. Dylan McCaffrey, who entered in the fourth quarter, used his feet to keep a drive alive, then found offseason hype target Jacob McCurry for an 18-yard touchdown.

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[Upchurch]

While the offense’s tide was rising, the defense did what fans have come to expect them to do: solve their problems with aggression. After allowing the aforementioned 25-yard rush early in the game, Michigan allowed 2.3 yards per carry the rest of the first quarter, 1.1 yards per carry in the second quarter, 2.3 yards per carry in the third quarter, and 3.9 yards per carry in the fourth quarter (a quarter in which almost every starter was eventually shelved). Lavert Hill, David Long, and Brandon Watson were in the hip pocket of their assignments throughout the afternoon, with Watson achingly close to recording an over-the-shoulder interception for the second week in a row; it was knocked away in the collision with the receiver and Josh Metellus, which says about all you need to know about Michigan’s coverage. Between that and the defensive line, which was stout up the middle and again collapsed the pocket and allowed the opposing quarterback precious little time to throw, Michigan’s defense looked like a vintage Don Brown group.

Special teams was an adventure. The good: Will Hart booted all his punts over 50 yards, Khaleke Hudson blocked a punt that Joe Hewlett recovered and returned 10 yards, and Michigan would have blocked a field goal that was attempted down 49-0 with under three minutes to go if not for an Ambry Thomas offsides call. The bad: Quinn Nordin missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who had been making great fielding decisions, fumbled a return that he recovered for a loss of five.

Even so, Michigan had no option but to put on this type of performance. A loss would have turned a season of questions into a season of infinite pain; the subsequent run on supplies at Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork would have been unlike anything we’ve seen in… [/checks record book, is deeply uncomfortable with recent history] uh, it would have been really bad, okay? A dominating win gave Michigan’s offense more game-speed reps to build on, and next week’s home contest with 0-2 SMU, which lost by 23 points to North Texas, should provide more of the same.

Comments

AeonBlue

September 8th, 2018 at 8:41 PM ^

Yeah, that's where I'm at. Watched Bredeson block air a few times, leaving Runyan with a 1v2. Several stunts were still a mess. Interior D-Line was still unimpressive. I didn't see enough to make me feel good against the top of the Big Ten East. 

It was still good to see the team do what they were supposed to do.

GarMoe

September 9th, 2018 at 4:54 AM ^

SWelch024 - as you felt the need to criticize FauxMo for his opinion, your optimist take is both unreasonable and unwarranted.  This was little more than a scrimmage with a JC.  Glad you're trying to find nuggets of corn and perhaps even peanuts in there but the only way I would have felt any better is if the D shut them out and the O put up 2016 vs Rutgers numbers.  

Occam's Razor

September 8th, 2018 at 5:38 PM ^

That's fine, but the problem is just how much better is this team? It was fun to watch Michigan beat up on a cupcake but the troubling OT signs were still there. They could easily be a better team and end up with a worse record because of the tackle issues. 

Tune up again against SMU and hopefully they look better on the outside against Nebraska. 

Tempered excitement until then. 

Blue Ninja

September 8th, 2018 at 7:28 PM ^

More than likely this team is good enough to pummel lesser teams like Western, win against mediocre teams but struggle against teams with any kind of good defense and a pulse on offense. This game doesn't change a lot but it is good to seem them putting away teams that they should and I think we can all agree this team really needed a confidence shot.

kehnonymous

September 8th, 2018 at 5:28 PM ^

I'm a little bit more encouraged if only because the offense - while still a bludgeoning of a hopefully overmatched opponent - was entertaining to watch.  I don't expect a repeat performance when our tackles have to spot Nick Bosa but that's grist for another day.

btw, dude - regarding Colombia - I'm doing the first half with a tour company but the second week I'm poking around the Carribean coast around the Cartegena region.  Other planned pit stops for me include the town of Minca and Tayrona National Park.  Any other must-sees in that general area?

FauxMo

September 8th, 2018 at 5:43 PM ^

Cartagena has enough to do to full a whole week. You can spend nearly that just in Centro Historico (essentially, the oldest surviving City in the Western Hemisphere, the 500 year old part of Cartagena). I’ve spent a lot of time in Barranquilla (about an hour from Cartagena by bus) and love it, but it’s my wife’s city so I may be biased. And if you’re going to Tayrona you’ll probably have a chance to see Santa Marta, which is a great beach city. But trust me, you’ll not be disappointed. Just be careful at night and, assuming you’re a white dude that looks European, be prepared for lots of people to offer to sell you sex and/or cocaine. :-)

kehnonymous

September 8th, 2018 at 5:55 PM ^

Definitely have two days blocked out for Cartagena plus at least a half-day when I depart.  I'll be able to see Barranquilla and Santa Marta en route to Tayrona, I hadn't planned on seeing much of them but given that the bus system can be pokey I'll probably have some time to check those out. 

I'm actually Chinese-American so I'm probably gonna get offered opium instead.  :)

I'm also happily spoken for so I should be able to resist the allures of Colombian women. (famous last words!)

FauxMo

September 8th, 2018 at 6:04 PM ^

Well, given this new information, here is an odd factoid: Barranquilla has a surprisingly large and active Chinese-Colombian community. Much more so than any other part of Colombia I have been to. Lots of great Chinese restaurants and a few good shops. 

On the busses, the bus trip from Cartagena to Barranquilla to Santa Marta to Tayrona is...interesting. Not sure if you're taking Marisol or Berlinasur (or a private bus), but it's no more than 125-150 miles total, but takes almost a whole day with stops. And the drivers are fearless. Get ready to say, "oh dear God, no, you're not about to actually pass around a blind corner on a dilapidated two-lane road at 60 mph, are you??? Yes, yes you are. May god be with me." Oh, and when the bus stops for bathroom/gas, buy the things that look like home made Funyuns in a plastic bag. They're great... :-)  

harmon40

September 8th, 2018 at 6:35 PM ^

Q’hubo, I used to live in Colombia years ago and vacationed in Cartagena. Don’t miss eating at Crepes & Waffles, I recommend the chicken Thai food crepe. The ice cream is also unreal.

You will love Cartagena! Islas de Rosario is well worth it but that’s a whole day trip. And there is so much to see...

mGrowOld

September 8th, 2018 at 5:38 PM ^

Same.  Happy to see it happen but doesn't change a thing on how I see this season unfolding: 9-3.

That being said i fully expect the board to massively over-correct to the optimistic based on a big home win over a poor opponent just as we massively over-corrected to the negative based on a relatively close loss, on the road, to a good one.

It's just what we do.

Stringer Bell

September 8th, 2018 at 5:42 PM ^

I still don't think ND is that good, which is why that loss has really tempered expectations for me.  Anyway, I agree this win doesn't do much or tell us what we didn't already know.  Shea is legit, he's got a lot of weapons, defense is very good but probably not as good as expected before the season started.  OL can maul on the ground but Shea was still under too much duress given the opponent.

OkemosBlue

September 8th, 2018 at 7:04 PM ^

 

ND isn't looking very good against Ball State, but the broadcasters were right today that they offensive line had a lot of issues because it was first game and on the road, which puts a premium on experience for the tackles who have to make calls as the defense shifts because the center has ducked his head to make the snap.  I'm not saying the tackles are even average, but I'm holding the door open for the possibility.  As for as Quarterback, Shea is more of the real deal in game 2 than any QB since Ruddock at the end of his year.  

bighouse22

September 8th, 2018 at 8:49 PM ^

I initially didn't think much of ND either.  For some reason I failed to realize that ND was 10-3 last year and lost by 1 point to Georgia.  After someone I knew pointed it out to me it changed my perspective a little.  I think it may be possible that ND is better than my initial impression and a close loss to them may not be the end of the world.  

Time will tell!

reshp1

September 8th, 2018 at 6:23 PM ^

I dunno, to me this game told me more than ND. Losing that game makes us not a top 15 team, but the range of possibilities still remaining were good but flawed to pit of darkness. I think this tells us we're likely the former and not the latter. String together a couple more like this, and some more data on if our rivals' first week stumbles are real weaknesses and the needle on my season outlook does move quite a bit. 

mGrowOld

September 8th, 2018 at 6:47 PM ^

While you are DEFINITELY one of the more "the glass is half full" optimists here (NTTAWW) I would caution you to draw any assumptions until we do two things we haven't done in a very long time:

1. Beat a very good team at home.

2. Beat a good team on the road.

Jury will remain out for me till Wisconsin.

Zenogias

September 8th, 2018 at 9:02 PM ^

"Necessary but not sufficient" was the exact reaction I had. I don't think anyone is kidding themselves that we're suddenly CoFoPoff contenders, but surely demolishing a team like WMU is better than Hoking it up? Michigan should never have the outcome of a game against a MAC team in doubt. For years, that wasn't true. Today was evidence that it remains true under Harbaugh. That's not the final goal, but it is the necessary first step.

4th phase

September 9th, 2018 at 12:36 AM ^

Amen to this. Yeah I thought we were gonna score 50 and if we didnt miss that field goal we could have, but this game was still fun as hell to watch. Big runs and long passes plus some read option stuff from Shea and McCaffery. Doesn't mean much in the long run, but at least we arent struggling against AF like last year.