How was your off-season? I could say mine was good, but that's just a qualitative assessment. Here in boxscore land, we rely on numbers to tell a story. Every summer, my company gives out pedometers and encourages its employees to track their steps. At the end of the step-tracking, the health assessments begin. The insurance companies use the health assessments to set the coverage rates they charge my company. I'm sure those two items aren't related at all. I cranked out over 850K steps during the 8 week step-tracking period. I felt so good about that, I kept the pedometer on for another two weeks and went over 1 million steps in 10 weeks. What does all that mean? I don't know, but they are nice round numbers.
Besides the step tracking, my new year's resolution was to do 10,000 push-ups this year. I'm on pace, having done ~7,000 so far. With all that walking (hey, when you get older, any sort of movement is good,) and the push-ups, I was hoping my health assessment would be improved over last year. I went to get my numbers Friday morning and found out that my blood pressure is still a little high. The numbers are in the "pre-hypertension" range. My glucose reading was still just a little above normal, so I fall in the "pre-diabetic" range. Finally, my BMI is no better than last year, so I'm still pre-obese.
Like me, the University of Michigan football team has spent the past 8 months trying to improve. They brought in a new coach with a track record of success. They trained like never before, eschewing film study to spend all 4 daily allotted hours on the practice field. They entered a submarine (metaphorical, I suppose, but with Harbaugh who can say for sure) and focused exclusively on football during fall practice. So have they improved? I submit that the numbers will show that the quarterbacking is pre-efficient, the running game is pre-effective, and the defense is pre-dominating.
The Two Jakes
* Jake Rudock was everything I was hoping he would be, except for the three interceptions. He threw X+1 yard passes on third and X. He completed 27 of 43 passes for a 62.8 completion percentage. I'm thrilled to see a number there north of 60%. He passed for 279 yards, good for 6.5 yards per attempt.
* I would define an efficient quarterback as one who completes 60+% of his passes for 7+ YPA, with 0-1 INTs/game. Jake was close to meeting those numbers, except fo the three interception. After one game against a pretty good defense, it says here that he is a pre-efficient passer. All he needs to do is get more comfortable throwing to Grant Perry and hit on a couple long balls at normal elevation under reasonable conditions. I think the ball sailed on him on the long throws due to the elevation, much like baseballs at Coors Field.
* Jake Butt in 2015 >>> Jake Butt in 2014. He appeared fully healthy and a near lock for the Mackey Award. Butt tallied 93 yards on 8 catches, including a ridiculous catch for a TD with 2 Ute defenders draped all over him.
Amazing Amara Darbaugh
* As good as Butt was, Darboh led the receiving corps with 8 catches for 101 yards and a TD. He's realizing how nice it is to have another receiver actually block for you on a bubble screen.
* Nine receivers caught passes from Rudock. He did have his two favorites in Darboh and Butt, but he also distributed 11 completions among 7 other receivers. That will make it hard for opposing defenses to prepare for Michigan. There'll be no more just shutting down Gallon or Funchess. Several guys can hurt you on this offense. I expect to see more contributions from the new guys, Perry, Bunting, and Isaac, as they get more familiar with the offense. I expect to see fewer contributions from A.J. Williams. He just showed no ability to separate from defenders.
* Since Brian inexplicably didn't use "Jackhammer" for his best performer award, I'm going to use it for the running backs. I think jackhammer is a fitting description for these guys because in practice, a jackhammer doesn't really go anywhere. It bangs and bangs and bangs at the concrete until the concrete finally breaks. I expect what you'll see this year is Harbaugh giving Smith, Isaac (and the occasional carry to Kerridge) carry after carry where they bang out 3 yards per, until the fourth quarter when the defense breaks and the Michigan running game starts cranking out 7 yards per carry. The net effect will be around 4.5 ypc, but we'll be able to win games in the fourth quarter by controlling the clock and limiting the opposition's chances. Older fans like myself will smile knowingly as the Harbaughfense cranks out 7 minute drives in the late stages of close games, hopefully finishing with 7 points while salting away another victory.
* De'Veon Smith got the majority of the carries and yards (17 for 47, 2.8 ypc.)
* Derrick Green only gained 1 yard on 2 carries. I was waiting for him to enter the game as a change of pace back. The pace changed alright, it just got slower.
Tacos and Peppers
* Bolden and Morgan led the way with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively.
* Ojemudia and Taco each had a sack that cost Utah 3 yards, a mini-sack if you will.
* Wormley led the way with 3 TFLs. Michigan had 9 TFLs total for 21 yards. By comparison, Sack Lake City Utah had no sacks and only 3 TFLs for 3 yards. We've come a long way on the O-Line.
ST3's STSTs (these are my Special Teams Specific Thoughts)
* Many have complained about our less than special teams the past few seasons. During these discussions, you'll often see someone say, special teams are 1/3 of the game. I did a quick check of the last few games last season and found out that ~1/6 of the plays run during a game are special teams plays. In this game, Michigan ran 72 plays and Utah had 70 total offensive plays. There were 26 assorted punts, kickoffs, PATs, and field goal tries. 26/168=0.155. Once again, roughly 1/6 of the total plays were special teams plays.
* Of course, at altitude, it can be argued that the kickoffs were merely ceremonial as only 1 of the 9 kickoffs total was returned.
* Brian's game recap stated, "You have read this column before." Well, I have seen this boxscore before as well. In an otherwise evenly matched game, turnovers swung the game to our opponents.
* First downs were even at 20-20, but Michigan only gained 3 first downs by rushing. I hope that's the low point for the season. It better be.
* Total offense yards was slightly in Michigan's favor, 355-337, with Michigan cranking out 4.9 yards per play to Utah's 4.8.
* Although it didn't seem like it, Michigan was actually better on 3rd down, converting 6 of 16 to Utah's 3 of 13.
* Neither team had a QBH. Try telling that to Jake Rudock.
* All Hail the Return of Hexadecimal Numbers. With the loss of Legends Jerseys and the re-retiring of retired numbers, we've got a numbers crunch. James Ross III is listed as #1F and Mason Cole is 5C.
* With all the talk of white pants, one thing was overlooked. The first initials of the Glasgows and the Coles were removed. I don't expect Mason to be confused with Brian, and the Glasgows play on opposite sides of the line so that should be OK.
There's a Cat on the Field
* Lineswoman Catherine Conti, to be precise. This was the first time a woman reffed a Pac-12 game. I don't recall if a Michigan game has had a female ref before. Maybe WD can help me out.
* Refs weren't noticed often, which is a good thing.
No real closing thoughts today, except to say that as far as beginnings go, this was a fine one but for the final score.