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Posts Tagged ‘Appalachian State’

Final Look: Appalachian State

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014


D Green run vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

While Michigan evened the all-time series with Appalachian State on Saturday, it doesn’t take away the sting of the first meeting that Michigan fans will forever be reminded of. But on Saturday, the current team did what it was supposed to do and looked impressive in doing so. Before we get into previews of Notre Dame, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s 52-14 win.

Three big moments

1. Devin to Devin times three

Devin Funchess became the first WR in Michigan history to catch three touchdown passes in the season opener (MGoBlue.com)

Devin Funchess became the first WR in Michigan history to catch three touchdown passes in the season opener (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan wasted no time getting the ball into the hands of its top receiver. On the first play of the game, Devin Gardner quick-pitched it out to Devin Funchess for an 11-yard gain. The drive ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Funchess on 3rd-and-7 when Funchess ran a beautiful route, splitting the linebacker and safety in the middle of the end zone. On the second possession, Gardner hit Funchess for 18 yards to start the drive and then the pair hooked up for a 34-yard touchdown pass. On the score, Funchess caught the ball at the 10-yard line, stiff-armed an App State defender at the five, and waltzed into the end zone. Midway through the second quarter, Gardner tossed up a jump ball in the back of the end zone and Funchess went up and got it over two App State defenders for his third touchdown.

2. Special teams touchdown

Heading into the game, if someone had told you Michigan would score a touchdown on special teams, probably 95 percent of Michigan fans would have guessed it would be either Jabrill Peppers or Dennis Norfleet. Linebacker Ben Gedeon might have been the 75th guess, but indeed he was the man of the moment.

It appeared that Michigan was going to take a 28-0 lead into the half as the defense forced Appalachian State to punt from its own 29-yard line with about a minute remaining. But linebacker Mike McCray got a hand on the punt and Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for a touchdown. His dive toward the goal line was reviewed and upheld, giving Michigan a blocked punt touchdown for the second season-opener in a row.

3. Big plays on the ground

Last season, Michigan’s running game was anemic, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 125.7 yards per game. Not only did it have trouble simply gaining positive yards — the Wolverines led the nation in tackles-for-loss surrendered — but big plays were solely up to the passing game. In fact, the longest rush of the season was by backup quarterback Shane Morris, who rumbled 40 yards on a  play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

That was not the case on Saturday as Michigan rushed for 350 yards and three touchdowns on just 36 carries. Both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith topped 100 yards, and perhaps most importantly, Gardner rushed only five times for nine yards. The running game has relied on quarterbacks too much in the past few years.

On Saturday, after struggling initially, the running game looked very good. Green had runs of 59 and 62 yards and Smith had a 61-yard run, giving the duo three rushes going for more yards than last season’s high.

The numbers game

9.7: Michigan’s average yards per carry in Week 1, which leads the nation through the first full week of the season

252: The number of consecutive games in Michigan Stadium with more than 100,000 fans

111-21-3: Michigan’s all-time record in season openers

13: The number of schools that have an all-time winning record against Michigan after the Wolverines evened the series with Appalachian State

1: Devin Funchess’ new jersey number after switching from 87. He is the first Michigan receiver to wear the coveted number since Braylon Edwards in 2004

6: Mason Cole became the sixth true freshman to ever start a game on offensive line. He was the second to start at tackle and the first to start a season opener

37: Devin Gardner’s career touchdown passes, passing Tom Brady and moving into a tie for seventh all-time with Todd Collins

5,280: Gardner’s career passing yards, passing Tom Brady and moving into ninth place all-time

Oct. 27, 2007: The last time Michigan had two 100-yard rushers in the same game. Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith became the 38th duo in Michigan history to accomplish the feat.

3: Devin Funchess became the first Michigan player to catch three touchdown passes in a season opener

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Vote for the performance of the game

 
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Not this time: Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 14

Sunday, August 31st, 2014


Funchess TD vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

Seven years ago one of the best collections of senior talent in recent Michigan history suffered the most embarrassing loss in program history. This time around, a Michigan squad entering the season with plenty of questions made sure it didn’t suffer the same fate. Football was back in the Big House and Michigan left no doubt, sending Appalachian State back to Boone, N.C. in a much different fashion than it did in 2007 with a 52-14 loss.

After forcing a three-and-out on App State’s first possession, Michigan didn’t take long to find the end zone. Devin Gardner pitched the ball out to Devin Funchess for 11 yards on the first play, and nine plays later, found Funchess in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. On the opening drive, Dennis Norfleet caught a 10-yard pass and Jehu Chesson caught a 19-yard pass.

Michigan’s defense forced another App State punt and the second drive began and ended just like the first. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards, and after four De’Veon Smith runs, Gardner hit Funchess for a 34-yard catch and run touchdown to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

Michigan’s offense stalled a bit at the beginning of the second quarter. The Wolverines forced another punt, but couldn’t do much on their third possession of the game. Derrick Green busted a 19-yard run on the possession’s second play, but Gardner was sacked two plays later and Michigan punted. After another App State punt, Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh for 26 yards to the App State 30. The drive stalled and Matt Wile missed a 48-yard field goal.

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Final Stats
Michigan App State
Score 52 14
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 560 280
Net Rushing Yards 350 153
Net Passing Yards 210 127
First Downs 24 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 4-44 8-69
Punts-Yards 1-46 8-287
Time of Possession 30:08 29:52
Third Down Conversions 5-of-8 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 2-9 1-8
Field Goals 1-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 7-for-7 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Full Box Score

App State still couldn’t muster any offense, punting it right back to Michigan and the Wolverines’ offense finally clicked once again. Green ripped off a 59-yard run on the first play and Gardner found Funchess for nine yards on the second. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the ASU 8-yard line and Gardner lobbed up a jump ball for Funchess in the back of the end zone on the next play. Funchess leaped over two defenders, caught the ball, and got a foot down to give Michigan a 21-0 lead.

Michigan’s next possession was all on the ground as Smith rambled for 61 yards on the first play and a 12-yard touchdown on the next and it appeared that Michigan would take a 28-0 lead into the half. But the special teams had different plans. After forcing App State to punt once again, Mike McCray blocked the punt and Ben Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for the score. Through one half of play, Michigan had out gained Appalachian State 334-74.

In the second half, Michigan picked up right where it left off, this time letting Green do the work. Green carried the ball on all six plays, yet again breaking a big one, this time for 62 yards, and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Appalachian State finally got in on the action, putting together its first extended drive of the day. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh. The scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass from Bryant to Jaylan Barbour.

App State fooled Michigan with an onside kick recovery, but the kicker inadvertently touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Michigan took over at the ASU 44-yard line. Gardner led off the drive with a 17-yard pass to Norfleet, then rushed twice for three and eight yards. After a three-yard pass to Chesson, Smith punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 49-7.

Michigan forced another App State punt and Shane Morris came in to relieve Gardner. On the drive’s third play, Morris connected with Keith Heitzman for 26 yards, but on the following play, Morris was intercepted at the App State 4-yard line.

The Mountaineers took advantage, marching 96 yards in 19 plays. Marcus Cox carried it in from a yard out for App State’s second touchdown of the game. Matt Wile kicked an 18-yard field goal on Michigan’s next possession and the Wolverines won 52-14.

Gardner passed Tom Brady for seventh on Michigan’s career touchdown list, going 13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards and three scores, becoming the first player in Michigan history to score three touchdowns in the season opener. Green led Michigan with with 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (11.3 yards per carry), while Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries (14.4 yards per carry).

As a team, Michigan amassed 560 total yards and averaged 10.2 yards per play, while holding Appalachian State to just 280 total yards — mostly with the second-team defense in. Michigan converted 5-of-8 third downs and held App State to just 5-of-17. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley each recorded a sack, while Desmond Morgan and James Ross led the team with six tackles apiece.

Michigan travels to South Bend next Saturday for the final meeting with Notre Dame. The Irish beat Rice 48-17 in Week 1.

Notes: 

Devin Funchess switched from No. 87 to No. 1 prior to the game, marking the first time the number has been worn since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

 The Michigan Stadium attendance of 106,811 was the 252nd consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans.

 Michigan is now 111-21-3 all-time in season openers and Brady Hoke is now 9-3 (4-0 at Michigan).

 The game captains for Michigan were Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Devin Gardner, Desmond Morgan, and Jake Ryan.

 Jabrill Peppers was injured in the first quarter, but played the rest of the half. He did not play the second half. Hoke said afterward that he could have gone if needed, but they wanted to keep him healthy for next week.

 Gardner’s 92.8 completion percentage was second in program history with a minimum of 10 completions, behind only Tate Forcier’s 100 percent (12-of-12) versus Bowling Green on Sept. 25, 2010.

• Gardner also passed Tom Brady for ninth in career passing yards (5,280).

 Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both eclipsed 100 yards, the 38th time two backs have done so in the same game in program history. It was the first time since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor did so against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.

 Michigan’s streak of 15 consecutive games with a forced turnover ended.

M&GB staff predictions: Appalachian State

Friday, August 29th, 2014


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The eight-month wait is finally ticking down into the final hours and I’m sure you can hardly contain yourself. Last night we got to watch the first real football of the season and tonight we get to watch our rivals in East Lansing feast on an inferior opponent. Tomorrow, it’s our turn. Seemingly everyone has made their predictions by now and now it’s time to make ours. We make it an internal competition throughout the season to see who is the most accurate. Derick won the title last season, so he will try to repeat. Here are our predictions:

Justin

As I said in this morning’s game preview, there’s not much good that can come out of this game. Win big: good, just as expected. Win close: uh oh. Lose: all hell will break loose. A dominating performance that leaves no doubt is needed, but just like in last season’s opener against Central Michigan, it won’t tell us much going forward. The most important thing for the offense is to get the offensive line some confidence, let Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith show what they can do, and enable Devin Gardner to begin developing chemistry between his talented but inexperienced receiving corps. And against a defense like App State’s all three should happen.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 52 10
Sam 45 7
Derick 45 14
Josh 52 9
Joe 48 17
M&GB Average 48 11

I’m most excited to see Greg Mattison’s new-look aggressive defense. Running back Marcus Cox is the danger man, but he can’t do it all. Quarterback Kam Bryant is going to have to try to make plays through the air with an inexperienced group of receivers. This has the makings of a big day for the secondary, and can you imagine the hype if Jabrill Peppers makes a big play? Michigan wins big, gives the starters a rest for much of the fourth quarter, and moves on to Notre Dame.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 10

Sam

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t watched much (OK, make that any) Appalachian State tape to prepare for my prediction. Hell, I don’t think I’ve seen a single Mountaineer play since that game-that-shall-not-be-named.

What I do know is that Michigan will play Appalachian State to kick off this season for some unknown and illogical reason. Lightning has struck twice before, but I would venture to say that this weekend should see clear skies and a return to normalcy…at least for the time being. Michigan’s depth and athleticism on offense paired with a potentially stout defense should prove to be far too much for Appalachian State (don’t worry, I just knocked on wood…twice). The Devin-to-Devin connection will reach paydirt twice while both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both score TDs along with the first career scoring reception from Amara Darboh. Michigan rolls.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 7

Derick

Will this year’s matchup with Appalachian State be redemption? No, of course Michigan can never erase that 2007 upset. But there certainly won’t be a repear oF that debacle, at least not this year.

Michigan should dominate defensively, and an inconsistent offense will flourish against a weak, new-to-FBS opponent. Devin Gardner is going to be the talk of the town on Saturday, leading Michigan to the win.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 14

Josh

It’s finally that time again. I’ll be honest, I’m not looking at this game as ‘revenge’ and I’m not even upset about 2007′s game. Yes, it was (utterly) disappointing but App State was a two-time defending champ that would go on to with a third straight and was loaded with talent. But neither of the teams that took the field back then are taking the field this Saturday.

On to 2014, we know App. State is not the ’07 version and it’s not even close. Yes, Michigan has many questions on offense but the defense will be very good (possibly elite). App. State wasn’t very good at stopping the run last year so I expect to see much of the same from them. Even with unknowns on Michigan’s offensive line I think the run game will get going early and often,while mostly unproven Michigan still has loads of talent. This, in turn, ‘should’ open up the play-action game and Michigan’s superior athletic talent should run (literally & figuratively) rampant over the Mountaineers. On defense I expect to see a lot of blitzes, from everywhere on the field, which should leave to some turnovers and easy scores for the offense.

I know we’ve all been waiting with baited breath for Jabrill Peppers to take the field and, unlike with Norfleet where I always just expected his next game to be the one he finally breaks a return touchdown, I actually DO think Peppers will find the end zone. We’ve all seen his highlights, and if you haven’t welcome back from under the rock from which you’ve been hiding for the past 12 months. The kid is just an absolute freak of nature, and apparently he comes with an ‘edge’ according to Hoke.

All in all I expect this to be a typical blowout against a lesser opponent. Turnovers will be forced by the defense and the offense shouldn’t have too much trouble putting up points.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 9

Joe

It’s time to get this season kicked off with a BANG and exorcise some demons in the process. I’m 100 percent certain there is not a player or coach on the maize and blue sideline that cares about the last meeting between these two programs. I’m also 100 percent certain that the entire 109,000-plus fans in attendance do. That’s what makes this game so interesting. I think the offense will look to establish the running game early and wear down a smaller Mountaineer defense. Ball control…ball control….ball control. The offense will be able to move the ball relatively easy through the air as well with Funchess being a beast in the middle. A beast!

I can’t wait to see em turn the defense loose. Lots of blitz packages early will rattle an inexperienced App State bunch and create some early turnovers. Jake Ryan will have these guys buzzing and should force four or five turnovers throughout the game. They don’t give up more than 17 points in this one. Because of the turnovers, Michigan will have plenty of short fields to work with and take advantage putting up 45-plus.

Michigan 48 – Appalachian State 17
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Appalachian State game preview; a First Look at Appalachian State; our preseason Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Hot-’n-fast pulled pork with Carolina mustard slaw; end this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue News. Also, a visitor list from MGoFish.

From the other side, some predictions from AppFan.com and a game preview from Big C’s Tailgate. Also, this is kind of….interesting.

Michigan-Appalachian State game preview

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Game Preview_AppSt_banner

The last — and only — time Appalachian State visited the Big House, the Mountaineers gained a lot of new fans from Columbus and East Lansing. Michigan fans would love to forget that day ever happened, but thanks to tomorrow’s rematch we all get to talk about it yet again. After tomorrow, unless lightning strikes twice, we can all move on to bigger and better things, but for now the focus is on App State.

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Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ESPN2
Appalachian St. Head Coach: Scott Satterfield (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 4-8 (all at App State)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Dwayne Ledford (2nd season)
Frank Ponce (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Nate Woody (2nd season)
Returning Starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 4-8 (4-4 SoCon)
Last Meeting: ASU 34 – UM 32 (2007)
All-Time Series: App State leads 1-0
Record in Ann Arbor: App State leads 1-0
Michigan vs Sun Belt Conf: 0-0 (First meeting)
Michigan in season openers: 110-21-3

Raise your hand if you’re excited about this rematch. Anyone? The only positive of playing this game is bringing the all-time series out of the red — a rare position for a Michigan opponent. Appalachian State is one of just 14 current Division 1 opponents with a winning record against Michigan. Only two of those 14 — Cornell (12-6) and USC (6-4) — have more than a one-game lead over the Wolverines all-time. Beating App State tomorrow would eliminate one of the 14, and while that may not seem like a big deal, it means something because of our classic Michigan arrogance. Another one of those can be eliminated next season when Michigan hosts Brigham Young.

That 2007 game of which we don’t want to discuss marked the beginning of the fall for Michigan, and while no one could have seen it coming, it took a disgustingly perfect confluence of events. That App State team was an FCS powerhouse, beginning a third-straight FCS championship run with the type of explosive quarterback Lloyd Carr defenses could never stop.

The current version of Appalachian State is far less proven and talented as it makes the transfer to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. Jerry Moore, the coach at the time, and a member of this year’s College Football Hall of Fame class, has since retired. The Mountaineers are coming off of a 4-8 season in which they ranked 76th in FCS in scoring offense (23.6 points per game) and 69th in scoring defense (28 points per game). Two of those wins came against Elon and Western Carolina, which had a combined record of 4-20, and 2-14 in the Southern Conference. Sixteen starters do return, but as App State makes the move to FBS this fall, the talent isn’t where it was seven years ago. Let’s take a look at the Mountaineers.

Michigan defense vs Appalachian State offense: When Appalachian State has the ball

Marcus Cox App St.

If healthy, Marcus Cox will be a good early test for Michigan’s run defense (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Eight starters are back, including the quarterback, a breakout running back, and the entire offensive line. But head coach Scott Satterfield needs to find replacements for his top two receivers, Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington, who combined for 142 catches for 1,645 yards, and six touchdowns.

The leading returning true receiver is Malachi Jones, who caught 31 passes for 293 yards. The only other returning receivers that caught a pass are a pair of all-name contenders, Simms McElfresh (20 for 269 and two touchdowns) and Bobo Beathard (three for 28). Tight end Barrett Burns is also back after catching 22 passes for 205 yards and a score last season. One player to watch is former four-star recruit Tacoi Sumler, who started his career at Oregon before transferring to ASU in 2012. He was ranked as the 11th-best receiver in the 2011 class and redshirted in his only season at Oregon. He played some in 2012, but missed last season with a knee injury.

Running back Marcus Cox is the leading returning receiver in terms of receptions (43), yards (559), and touchdowns (six). He also led the team with 1,250 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. To top it all off, the 5’10″, 180-pound Dacula, Ga. native was just a true freshman. He has been hampered by a knee injury, but should be ready to go. If he’s not up to full speed, look for junior Ricky Fergeson, who was the only other running back over 100 yards last season, with 215 on 55 carries, to carry the load.

Quarterback Kameron Bryant had a solid sophomore campaign, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards and 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions in eight starts. He also scored three rushing touchdowns, though he’s nowhere near the runner Edwards was. The job is his full-time after the graduation of Jamal Londry-Jackson, who started the other four games a year ago.

The offensive line has 143 career starts between the eight returning linemen, including left tackle Kendall Lamm, a first-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.

Michigan offense vs Appalachian State defense: When Michigan has the ball

In addition to giving up 28 points per game, Appalachian State’s defense allowed 220.2 rushing yards per game, which ranked 105th nationally in FCS, and an average of 4.9 yard per rush. The pass defense was much better — 17th nationally — with an average of 180.2 yards allowed. But, because the rush defense was so porous, opposing offenses didn’t need to throw very much, attempting an average of 24 passes per game. In fact, only nine teams in FCS had fewer passes attempted against them, and three of those were in fewer games played.

Just like the offense, eight starters return. Leading tackler, linebacker Karl Anderson, who tallied 113 tackles — 40 more than the next best — is gone. But two other starting linebackers are back. John Law and Kennan Gilchrist combined for 130 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, three interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery as true freshmen.

Defensive end Deuce Robinson led App State with seven tackles for loss last season (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Defensive end Deuce Robinson led App State with seven tackles for loss last season (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Along the defensive line, virtually everyone is back return with the exception of end Adam Scott. Senior defensive end Deuce Robinson and junior end Thomas Bronson combined for 51 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles, but Scott, who graduated, led the team with 8.5 tackles-for-loss. The Mountaineers recorded just eight sacks all season, so getting to the quarterback will be a big area for improvement. There are plenty of bodies back on the interior, most notably 6’2″, 325-pound nose tackle Tyson Fernandez.

Free safety Alex Gray, who led the secondary with 73 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and is the only member of the secondary to record a sack, is gone. Two other safeties, Doug Middleton and Kevin Walton are back, however. The pair combined for 102 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and three interceptions. Cornerback Joel Ross, who started nine games in 2013, is also back, as is Dante Blackmon, who started six. In addition, ASU received a junior college transfer, Jordan Ford, from Monroe College (N.Y.) who should factor into the discussion.

The other third: Special teams

Field goal kicker Drew Stewart has moved on, but junior Zach Matics had a good spring and is in line to win the job. Sophomore punter Bentlee Critcher ranked second in FCS with a 45.9 average. He also downed 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) inside the 20, compared to just five touchbacks, and booted 18 over 50 yards. ASU must replace main kick returner Tony Washington, but Beathard averaged 22.1 yards on seven returns last season. Washington also handled punt return duties, so that role will need to be filled. Sumler should factor into the return game if he’s fully recovered from his knee injury.

Prediction

Maize and Go Blue wasn’t around back in 2007, but if it would have been, we would have predicted a big Michigan win, because at the time, who wouldn’t? This time around we’re still going to predict a big Michigan win. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will want to flex his muscles a bit and get the offense rolling. And while tomorrow’s performance won’t really prove anything for the rest of the season, it will be important to develop some confidence with the offensive line, get Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith going on the ground, and find some chemistry between Devin Gardner and his talented but largely unproven receiving corps. Opposing offenses ran at will on Appalachian State and Michigan will do the same.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on shutting down Cox and the Mountaineer running game, forcing Bryant to try to make big plays with his arm. He’s certainly capable of doing so, but without his top two receivers from last season, Michigan’s secondary could be in for a big day. It will also be the first look at Greg Mattison’s new aggressive defense. Look for the line to put plenty of pressure on Bryant and force several turnovers.

Just like last year’s season opener against Central Michigan, look for Shane Morris and the second team to play much of the fourth quarter as Michigan takes care of business and moves on to Notre Dame.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 10

First Look: Appalachian State

Monday, August 25th, 2014


FirstLook-AppState

It’s finally here. The week we’ve all been both looking forward to and dreading for the past seven months. On one hand, it’s finally game week, which means there are just a few more days until Michigan football gets underway for the 135th time in school history. On the other hand, we have to endure a few days of highlights from that dreadful 2007 game that none of us wants to ever talk about again.

Since we have to talk about Appalachian State, we’ll just focus on this year’s version, which will be playing its first ever game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision on Saturday. Do the Mountaineers have a shot to pull off the unthinkable once again? Or will Michigan take care of business, put the past behind them, and move on quickly to the final showdown with Notre Dame? Let’s take a look at how App State fared in 2013 and who they have returning this fall.

Appalachian State 2013 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
ASUMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 23.6 | 32.2 N/A | 46 28.0| 26.8 N/A66
Rushing Yards 1,6561,634 2,643 | 1,822
Rush Avg. Per Game 138.0 | 125.7 N/A | T102 220.2 | 140.2 N/A | 29
Avg. Per Rush 3.9 | 3.3 4.9 | 3.8
Passing Yards 3,2613,221 2,163 | 3,007
Pass Avg. Per Game 271.8247.8 N/A | 51 180.2 | 231.3 N/A | 51
Total Offense 4,9174,855 4,806 | 4,829
Total Off Avg. Per Game 409.8 | 373.5 N/A | 86 400.5 | 371.5 N/A | 41
Kick Return Average 21.4 | 22.1 N/A | 49 23.5 | 23.3 N/A | 101
Punt Return Average 3.7 | 6.7 N/A | 89 6.4 | 6.4 N/A | 40
Avg. Time of Possession 29:22 | 31:17 N/A | 34
30:38 | 28:38
3rd Down Conversion Pct 43.0% | 39.0% N/A | 73
46.0% | 40.0% N/A | 65
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 20-150 | 36-270 N/A | 105
8-38 | 25-182 N/A | 66
Touchdowns Scored 35 | 52 44 | 40
Field Goals-Attempts 13-18 | 18-25 10-13 | 24-31
Red Zone Scores (32-40) 80% | 48-56 86% N/A | 43
(39-49) 80% | (39-45) 87% N/A | 94
Red Zone Touchdowns (24-40) 60% | 37-56 66% (31-49) 63% | (24-45) 53%

Comparing Michigan’s 2013 stats to Appalachian State’s is apples to oranges because the Mountaineers were in FCS last season, and thus, the competition was much different. But then again, App State was playing competition relative to itself, so let’s compare the stats just for the fun of it.

Statistically, Michigan and Appalachian State were pretty similar on offense, although Michigan played one more game. App State finished the season with 22 more rushing yards than Michigan and 40 more passing yards, though the per-game averages are better with 12 games as opposed to 13. The main difference, however, was that Michigan scored 8.6 more points per game. It’s no secret that Michigan had no run game, but App State’s wasn’t much better, averaging 3.9 yards per rush. The Mountaineers converted third downs four percent better than Michigan did and allowed 20 sacks compared to Michigan’s 36. Basically, App State had a slightly better offense, but Michigan’s was more efficient.

Defensively, the two were opposites. Michigan’s rush defense ranked 29th nationally, allowing 140.2 yards per game, but the pass defense gave up 231.3. Conversely, Appalachian State’s rush defense allowed 220.2 rushing yards per game, but just 180.2 passing. Overall, Michigan allowed 23 more total yards in one more game and the Wolverines allowed 1.2 fewer points per game. App State only got to the quarterback eight times all season — less than once per game — while Michigan recorded 25 sacks. Additionally, the Mountaineers allowed opponents to convert third downs 46 percent of the time and score touchdowns 63 percent of the time in the red zone.

Obviously, looking at last season’s stats only tells a small part of the story and doesn’t weigh heavily into this season’s forecast, so let’s take a look at how much of that production is returning compared to how much was lost.

Passing Yards (QB only)
Returning Lost
Kameron Bryant 2,713 Jamal Londry-Jackson 548
2,713 548
83.2% 16.8%
Rushing (RB/QB only)
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox 1,250 Jamal Londry-Jackson (QB) 23
Ricky Ferguson 215 Rommel Andre 13
Kameron Bryant (QB) 158 Paul Magloire 9
Logan Hallock (QB) -3
1,620 45
97.3% 2.7%
Receiving
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox (RB) 559 Andrew Peacock 706
Malachi Jones 293 Tony Washington 939
Barrett Burns (TE) 205 Sean Price 237
Simms McElfresh 269 Jacob McCann (TE) 7
Ricky Ferguson (RB) 30
Bobo Beathard 28
Kameron Bryant (QB) -12
1,372 1,889
42.1% 57.9%
Scoring
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox (RB) 126 Drew Stewart (K) 71
Kameron Bryant (QB) 18 Tony Washington (WR) 24
Simms McElfresh (WR) 14 Andrew Peacock (WR) 12
Barrett Burns (TE) 6 Sean Price (WR) 6
Karl Anderson (LB) 6
164 119
58.0% 42.0%

The majority of the production from Appalachian State’s backfield is returning, most notably quarterback Kameron Bryant, who completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions, and running back Marcus Cox, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. Those are good pieces to build around and the entire offensive line is back as well, bringing 130 career starts to the table. But like Michigan, more than half of last season’s receiving production is gone, including the top to receivers, Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington. In fact, the top returning pass-catcher is Cox, a running back.

Given that information, it appears that Michigan’s game plan will be to load the box to shut down the run game and force Bryant to try to test their secondary with a group of unproven and inexperienced receivers. That’s a pretty good opportunity for Jabrill Peppers to make his mark on his first career game.

Defensively, Appalachian State returns a good amount of experience, but does have to replace their leading tackler, linebacker Karl Anderson, whose 113 tackles were 40 more than the next-best. The two returning linebackers, John Law and Kennan Gilchrist, were true freshmen last season and combined for 130 tackles, 6.5 for loss, one sack, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery. The line also returns most of its production except for end Adam Scott, who led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss. The secondary lost its top tackler, free safety Alex Gray, but returns three other starters.

Like the offense, App State’s defense was very young last season and will benefit from a year of experience. But the rush defense was so bad last year that considerable improvement will need to be made, and that’s a lot to ask in the season opener. In fact, only nine teams in all of FCS had fewer passes attempted against them, which is why ASU’s pass defense looked so good on paper.

As we saw with Central Michigan in last year’s opener, the success Michigan has against an inferior opponent has little to do with the rest of the season. But App State’s poor rush defense will allow Michigan’s offensive line to tune up and try to make a statement with the running game. Like the game in general, if it works, there will be nothing more than a pat on the back and move on to Notre Dame. If Michigan’s running game struggles, however, there will be plenty of cause for concern about the rest of the season.

Stay tuned for further game coverage as the week goes on, including our full game preview on Friday.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Appalachian State

Monday, August 25th, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Week one is finally upon us and with that comes the kick off of our Five-Spot Challenge. Now in its fourth year, we have secured our first Five-Spot Challenge sponsor, We Know Tickets, which will provide the prize to the season-long champion: a pair of ticket to the 2015 season opener against Oregon State. If you’re looking to purchase tickets, make sure to check out their listings for each of Michigan’s games this season, or for any other concert or sporting event you want to go to (and type in code ‘goblue’ for 10 percent off your order). And of course, we will still award $20 gift cards to The M Den for each Five-Spot Challenge weekly winner.

If you’re new to the game, here’s how it works. Each Monday throughout the season, we list five questions, such as “How many passing yards will Devin Gardner record?” If you guess 200, but he throws for 250, you get 50 points. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score possible each week, meaning you want to be as close to correct as possible for each answer. The points for each of the five questions will be added to determine the weekly low score.

The spot you finish relative to the rest of the competitors will be added up throughout the season to determine the overall winner. For example, in Week 1 if you are first out of 20 participants, you will be awarded 20 points. Second would get 19, third would get 18, and so on. For the full season, you want the most points, so you’ll want to make sure to participate each and every week.

There will also be a bonus question each week, which will be a simple score prediction. In this, you must specify which team is which. If you simply put 14-10, it won’t count. You must say Michigan 14 – Appalachian State 10. This is the Hail Mary pick. If you pick the score exactly, your largest single differential from the other questions will be reduced to zero.

In 2011, umichfan1 won a pair of tickets to the season opener against Air Force. In 2012, crp12qb won a round of golf at the U of M golf course with former Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin. Last season, Maizenblu62 won a pair of tickets to this year’s opener against Appalachian State.

The weekly results will be announced in the same post as the following week’s questions, while the overall standings will live in the right sidebar so you always know where you stand. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Good luck!

Here are the Week 1 questions. All answers must be submitted by 11:59 a.m. EST on Saturday.

Introducing our new ticket partner, We Know Tickets

Monday, August 18th, 2014


WeKnowTickets Logo

With less than two weeks remaining until the 135th edition of Michigan football gets underway, we would like to introduce our new ticket partner. We Know Tickets is a ticket reseller that offers tickets to sporting events, concerts, and theater events. I like them as a partner because in addition to fantastic customer service they donate a portion of their proceeds to a good cause, Restoration Gateway, which helps “restore peace and heal wounds among the vulnerable children and war-torn people of Northern Uganda.”

We Know Tickets is a great place to buy tickets to Michigan games this season, with a large inventory for each game and low prices. At the time of this posting, here are the lowest prices available for each game:

Current Ticket Availability (as of Aug. 18)
Game Lowest Price $ Below Face Value Qty Available at Lowest Price
Season Tickets $692 2
Appalachian State $39 $31 4
Notre Dame (away) $457 Sold Out 1
Miami Ohio $24 $46 4
Utah $42 $28 4
Minnesota $39 $41 2
Rutgers (away) $131 $24 4
Penn State $109 $97 (singles only) 6
Michigan State (away) $154 Sold Out 7
Indiana $37 $43 2
Northwestern (away) $64 $26 4
Maryland $21 $49 2
Ohio State (away) $220 ($22 over) 1

In addition to the face value prices listed above, Michigan charges a $6 service fee per ticket and a $10 order charge. Our partners at We Know Tickets are offering a special discount code to our readers that will remove the fees they charge. When you check out, simply type ‘goblue‘ into the Discount Code box and you’ll receive 10% off your order.

We Know Tickets is also sponsoring our Five-Spot Challenge this season. The first week’s questions will be posted next Monday, so stay tuned for that. Click on their logo above, or on any of the game links in the table above to visit We Know Tickets, browse their collection, and purchase tickets to any game you want to attend.

2014 opponent preview: Appalachian State

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


2014 Opponent Preview - Appalachian State

Like last year, our preseason opponent preview will go from what we feel is the easiest opponent on the schedule to the toughest. We will feature one opponent per week throughout the summer, leading up to the first game week. To kick things off, the team we feel is the easiest on the schedule also happens to be the first opponent on the schedule, Appalachian State.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 at Michigan 
Sept. 6 Campbell
Sept. 20 at Southern Miss
Sept. 27 at Georgia Southern
Oct. 4 South Alabama
Oct. 11 Liberty
Oct. 18 at Troy
Nov. 1 Georgia State
Nov. 8 Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 15 at Arkansas State
Nov. 22 at Louisiana
Nov. 29 Idaho

Despite the objections of most Michigan fans, Appalachian State is on Michigan’s schedule once again solely because of what happened seven years ago. Beating the Mountaineers does nothing except bring the all-time head-to-head series to even. Doing the unthinkable — losing — once again, gives opposing fans more ammo, while simply playing the game allows the media to rehash the horror that occurred back in 2007. There’s nothing good about this. But here we are, and the good news is this isn’t the same Appalachian State team.

The team that shocked Michigan in 2007 was a two-time defending FCS national champion and went on to win a third that season. Quarterback Armanti Edwards, who played for the Carolina Panthers from 2010-12, the Cleveland Browns last season, and was just signed by the Chicago Bears, was just the type of quarterback that Michigan defenses under Lloyd Carr could never stop. That team also had a second-round draft pick, receiver Dexter Jackson.

The current version of Appalachian State is far less proven and talented. Jerry Moore, the coach at the time, and is a part of this year’s College Football Hall of Fame class, has since retired. The Mountaineers are coming off of a 4-8 season in which they ranked 76th in FCS in scoring offense (23.6 points per game) and 69th in scoring defense (28 points per game). Two of those wins came against Elon and Western Carolina, which had a combined record of 4-20 and 2-14 in the Southern Conference. Sixteen starters do return, but as App. State makes the move to FBS this fall, the talent isn’t where it was seven years ago.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
QB Kameron Bryant, Jr. 6’1″, 210 237-333 for 2,713 yds, 14 TD, 4 INT
RB Marcus Cox, So. 5’10″, 185 1,250 yds (5.1 avg), 15 TD
WR Malachi Jones, Jr. 6’1″, 180 31 rec. for 293 yds
WR Tacoi Sumler, Jr. 5’9″, 173
WR Simms McElfresh, Jr. 5’10″, 173 20 rec. for 269 yds, 2 TD
TE Barrett Burns, So. 6’4″, 220 22 rec. for 205 yds, 1 TD
LT Kendall Lamm, Sr. 6’6″, 292 12 starts (30 career starts)
LG Shaq Counts, Jr. 6’2″, 295 12 starts (24 career starts)
C Graham Fisher, Sr. 6’2″, 285 11 starts (28 career starts)
RG Alex Acey, Sr. 5’11″, 268 10 starts (28 career starts)
RT Will Corbin, Sr. 6’6″, 311 11 starts (20 career starts)

Eight starters are back, including the quarterback, a breakout running back, and the entire offensive line. But head coach Scott Satterfield needs to find replacements for his top two receivers, Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington, who combined for 142 catches for 1,645 yards, and six touchdowns.

The leading returning true receiver is Malachi Jones, who caught 31 passes for 293 yards. The only other returning receivers that caught a pass are a pair of all-name contenders, Simms McElfresh (20 for 269 and two touchdowns) and Bobo Beathard (three for 28). Tight end Barrett Burns is also back after catching 22 passes for 205 yards and a score last season. One player to watch is former four-star recruit Tacoi Sumler, who started his career at Oregon before transferring to ASU in 2012. He was ranked as the 11th-best receiver in the 2011 class and redshirted in his only season at Oregon. He played some in 2012, but missed last season with a knee injury.

Running back Marcus Cox is the leading returning receiver in terms of receptions (43), yards (559), and touchdowns (six). He also led the team with 1,250 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. To top it all off, the 5’10″, 180-pound Dacula, Ga. native was just a true freshman. Junior Ricky Fergeson was the only other running back over 100 yards with 215 on 55 carries.

Quarterback Kameron Bryant had a solid sophomore campaign, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards and 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions in eight starts. He also scored three rushing touchdowns, though he’s nowhere near the runner Edwards was. The job is his full-time after the graduation of Jamal Londry-Jackson, who started the other four games a year ago.

The offensive line has 143 career starts between the eight returning linemen, including left tackle Kendall Lamm, a first-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
DE Ronald Blair, Sr. 6’4″, 275 7 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR
NT Tyson Fernandez, So. 6’2″, 325 14 tackles
DE Deuce Robinson, Sr. 6’5″, 252 45 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF
OLB Rashaad Townes, So. 6’2″, 210 32 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PBU
ILB Brandon McGowan, Sr. 6’2″, 231 43 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR
ILB John Law, So. 6’0″, 225 71 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT
OLB Kennan Gilchrist, So. 6’2″, 200 59 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 FF
CB Joel Ross, Sr. 5’10″, 188 56 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF
CB Dante Blackmon, So. 5’11″, 185 15 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU
FS Doug Middleton, Jr. 6’0″, 203 46 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FF
SS Kevin Walton, Jr. 6’0″, 190 56 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU

In addition to giving up 28 points per game, Appalachian State’s defense allowed 220.2 rushing yards per game, which ranked 105th nationally in FCS, and an average of 4.9 yard per rush. The pass defense was much better — 17th nationally — with an average of 180.2 yards allowed. But, because the rush defense was so porous, opposing offenses didn’t need to throw very much, attempting an average of 24 passes per game. In fact, only nine teams in FCS had fewer passes attempted against them, and three of those were in fewer games played.

Just like the offense, eight starters return. Leading tackler, linebacker Karl Anderson, who tallied 113 tackles — 40 more than the next best — is gone. But two other starting linebackers are back. John Law and Kennan Gilchrist combined for 130 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, three interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery as true freshmen.

Along the defensive line, virtually everyone is back return with the exception of end Adam Scott. Senior defensive end Deuce Robinson and junior end Thomas Bronson combined for 51 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles, but Scott, who graduated, led the team with 8.5 tackles-for-loss. The Mountaineers recorded just eight sacks all season, so getting to the quarterback will be a big area for improvement. There are plenty of bodies back on the interior, most notably 6’2″, 325-pound nose tackle Tyson Fernandez.

Free safety Alex Gray, who led the secondary with 73 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and is the only member of the secondary to record a sack, is gone. Two other safeties, Doug Middleton and Kevin Walton are back, however. The pair combined for 102 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and three interceptions. Cornerback Joel Ross, who started nine games in 2013, is also back, as is Dante Blackmon, who started six. In addition, ASU received a junior college transfer, Jordan Ford, from Monroe College (N.Y.) who should factor into the discussion.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
PK Zach Matics, Jr. 6’2″, 186
P Bentlee Critcher, So. 6’1″, 175 45.9 avg, 15 in-20, 5 TB
KR Bobo Beathard, Jr. 5’10″, 191 7 ret, 22.1 avg.
PR Tacoi Sumler, Jr. 5’9″, 173

Field goal kicker Drew Stewart has moved on, but junior Zach Matics had a good spring and is in line to win the job. Sophomore punter Bentlee Critcher ranked second in FCS with a 45.9 average. He also downed 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) inside the 20, compared to just five touchbacks, and booted 18 over 50 yards. ASU must replace main kick returner Tony Washington, but Beathard averaged 22.1 yards on seven returns last season. Washington also handled punt return duties, so that role will need to be filled. Sumler should factor into the return game if he’s fully recovered from his knee injury.

Outlook

Appalachian State joins the big boys this fall as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, which means Michigan doesn’t have the stigma that comes with playing an FCS school this season, even if the Mountaineers won’t be as good as the team that beat Michigan in 2007. It’s going to be a difficult season for Satterfield’s squad, though ASU does still play two FCS foes, Campbell and Liberty. Matching last season’s win total of four should be the goal and anything above that should be considered a success this season.

What it means for Michigan

As mentioned at the top, there’s nothing to gain from this game. Michigan needs to win convincingly and move on to Notre Dame week. ASU will come into the Big House with confidence given what happened the last time, and after watching Akron and UConn hang with the Wolverines last season, they’ll expect to have a chance to win.

Michigan’s rush defense will get a good test with Cox. After holding four of the first six opponents under 100 yards rushing last season, Michigan allowed the final seven to average 183.6 per game, including Ohio State’s 393. The secondary will be tested by Sumler, but shouldn’t have much trouble with the ASU passing game overall. Michigan’s offense should be able to score at will and pound the Mountaineer defense into submission with the rushing duo of Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith. It will be a good tune up for the Irish the following week, but that’s about it.

Countdown to kickoff: 100 days

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Countdown to Kickoff-100_days

Is This Year’s Hot Start Just a Repeat of 2009?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010


Michigan escaped with a win last Saturday over an FCS school leaving Michigan fans on the verge of panic. It was a scene all to familiar in recent years, with Michigan narrowly avoiding another Appalachian State-style loss.

The first two games, wins at home against UConn and on the road against Notre Dame, had Michigan the talk of the nation with super sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson. But Saturday’s uninspiring performance in which the Minutemen marched down the field for three touchdown drives spanning 67 yards or more brought back the “Oh, not again” feelings that have inundated  the past two years.

Is Michigan headed for another collapse just like last season, or is this year’s team poised to hold its own in the Big Ten?

Offensive stats through three games
2010   2009
3-0 Record 3-0
33.3 Scoring Offense 38.0
859 Rushing Yards 812
286.3 Rushing YPG 270.7
671 Passing Yards 505
223.7 Passing YPG 168.3
510 Total Offense 439
21/42 (50%) Third-Down Conv. 16/41 (39%)
10/11 (91%) Red Zone Scoring 9/12 (75%)
1* Turnovers 4
1 Sacks Allowed 4
*1 other turnover was on a fumble after an
INT, so doesn’t count towards offensive stats

Through the first three games last season, Michigan averaged more points per game (38) than it has so far this season (33.3), but the offensive output has been much more consistent this year (510 total yards per game compared to 439).

While Michigan’s offensive numbers are better, the opponents have been eerily similar.

Last year, Michigan opened with Western Michigan, a Mid-American Conference school that had a senior quarterback who holds six career passing records at the school. Many predicted the Broncos pull off the upset, but Michigan dominated in a 31-7 win in Tate Forcier’s debut.

A week later, Michigan hosted Notre Dame and won a 38-34 shootout, then followed that up with a lackluster performance against Eastern Michigan. In that game, Michigan led just 24-17 at halftime, but pulled away, winning 41-17.

Those three opponents finished the year with a combined record of 11-25, so what seemed like a great start for Michigan was really just smoke and mirrors.

Prior to this year’s opener against UConn, many predicted the Huskies to waltz into Ann Arbor and come away with a win. UConn was expected to play for the Big East title this season. Instead, Michigan won convincingly in Denard Robinson’s debut, and UConn has now started the season 1-2 with a loss to Temple last week.

In the second week of the season, Michigan traveled to South Bend and pulled out the win when Robinson led the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes to seal the win. Notre Dame followed that up with an overtime loss at Michigan State last week, and could very well lose its next three as well.

Last week, Michigan came out flat, leading UMass just 21-17 at halftime before building a sizeable lead in the third quarter. But Michigan wasn’t able to put UMass away in the fourth quarter, as the Minutemen pulled within five before a failed onside kick allowed Michigan to run out the clock.

Despite being an FCS team, UMass is probably better than Eastern Michigan was last year, considering Eastern didn’t win a single game and UMass is currently ranked 72nd in the Sagarin Ratings. That’s higher than upcoming opponents Bowling Green (90th), Indiana (82nd), and Purdue (77th).

I think this year’s Michigan team is better suited for Big Ten play than last year’s was for a couple of reasons.

1. Denard Robinson.

As long as he stays healthy, he gives Michigan a chance to win every game. Of course they won’t win every game this season, but his ability to run and pass makes Michigan’s offense nearly impossible to defend consistently.

Last year, Forcier played well in the first few games, but Michigan’s offense was ultimately hurt by his inexperience and a lack of a true running game. Forcier was a true freshman with a limited understanding of the playbook, and thus, the offensive variety was lacking.

Running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were constantly injured and neither proved to be a true threat, meaning opponents could key in on the passing game, forcing Forcier to make freshman mistakes, which he did.

Robinson had last season to get his feet wet in the offense and get acclimated to the college game. He came to fall camp just a few weeks before the season started, so his ability to run the offense consisted solely of taking the snap and running left or right. Opponents knew that and he still ran for 5.1 yards per carry.

The offseason gave him a chance to learn the playbook and develop his arm, and it paid off when Rich Rodriguez gave him the nod to start the UConn game. Robinson took advantage, putting up three of the nine best offensive games in Michigan history the past three weeks.

The offensive line opens up a huge hole for Vincent Smith (photo by the Detroit News)

The offensive line opens up a huge hole for Vincent Smith (photo by the Detroit News)

2. The offensive line.

This year’s offensive line is talented and experienced, and it all starts with center David Molk. Last year, the offense started to plummet after Molk went down with an injury. It shook up the entire line, making guard David Moosman move to center. In the first game thereafter, he fumbled three or four bad snaps, and the line was never able to gel the rest of the season.

So far this season, the line has allowed just one sack in Robinson’s 76 pass attempts, and has paved the way for 859 rushing yards in three games (six yards per carry).

Against Notre Dame’s stout defensive front seven, Michigan rushed for 288 yards and averaged seven yards per carry. Robinson also threw for 244 yards without being sacked.

Last week, Notre Dame sacked Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins four times and held State to 4.7 yards per carry, well below its average of 6.6.

The real test for the offensive line will be when Michigan plays Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, but this line is certainly suited to keep Michigan’s offense chugging away.

3. The skills position players.

Running back Michael Shaw stepped up last week against UMass, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. He seems to be the best back Michigan has this season, with Vincent Smith also splitting reps. If the two can combine to give Michigan a running threat outside of Robinson, the offense will be that much harder to stop.

The receivers are perhaps the best position group on the offense, other than quarterback. In Michigan’s last two games, a different receiver has stepped up.

Against Notre Dame, it was Roy Roundtree with eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and Martavious Odoms with seven catches for 91 yards. Against UMass it was Darryl Stonum with three catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.  

Junior Hemingway, Michigan’s best deep threat, just returned from injury and made a nice 36-yard catch last week, and Kelvin Grady has averaged 13.2 yards per catch out of the slot.

With those receiving weapons at Robinson’s disposal, defenses will have a hard time lining up to stop the run.

Given the electric play of Robinson, the cohesiveness of the offensive line, and the talent of the skill position players, Michigan’s offense is much more suited to continue its output once the Big Ten grind starts than it was last season. The only glaring weakness is the defense, which isn’t going to be fixed this season. Expect a lot of shootouts the rest of the way.

Darryl Stonum had a breakout game against UMass (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Darryl Stonum had a breakout game against UMass (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Over/Under

I was right there with Michigan’s score last week, only one under, but gave the defense too much credit, 16 under. I don’t think anyone really expected UMass to drop 37 points in Ann Arbor, but here’s to hoping it was just a one-game letdown.

For the season, I’m nine over offensively and 18 over defensively, so it’s starting to come back down to the median.

I Said What?

“Robinson will play but certainly won’t need the whopping amount of carries he has had in the past two games. Rodriguez should let him keep his rhythm and build a good lead and then rest him to keep him fresh.”

Well, I was right that he wouldn’t need as many carries. He rushed 17 times, as opposed to the 29 and 28 times in the previous two games. Shaw was efficient enough with his 12 carries, scoring three touchdowns, that Robinson wasn’t needed to run as much.

I was wrong, however, about Michigan building a large enough lead that would allow Robinson a breather. (+1/2)

“Robinson needs to establish the passing game. Everybody knows Robinson’s skills on the ground – that was evident from his first collegiate snap. The biggest question mark surrounding Robinson at this point is his passing ability.”

Michigan didn’t need to throw the ball more last week, but Robinson was very efficient when he did, going 10-14 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The only miscue was an interception on his first pass of the day.

He showed great touch on a few deep balls that he threw, completing a 36-yarder to Hemingway and a 46-yarder to Stonum.  

I think Robinson did enough to warrant defenses paying attention to the passing game, although until he proves he can do it in Big Ten play, the question marks will still exist. (+1)

“Find a running game outside of Robinson.”

Done. Shaw rushed 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and broke a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up another touchdown. Can he do it again? (+1)

Look for Michigan to set the tone early, jumping out to a comfortable lead by halftime.”

The tone that Michigan set was one that lacked emotion coming off a big road win over a rival. UMass took the opening drive down the field for a field goal and Robinson’s first pass was picked off. UMass led 17-7 before Michigan realized it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk and scored twice right before the half. (-1)

Denard?

Denard Pryor Week 3
Three games into the season he’s still outperforming everybody’s preseason Heisman favorite Terrelle Pryor. While Pryor has 44 more passing yards and two more passing touchdowns, Robinson has 394 more rushing yards and two more rushing touchdowns. He also has a higher quarterback rating, although ever so slight, a higher completion percentage, and has thrown one fewer interception. Interstingly enough, their yards per attempt are exactly the same.