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Posts Tagged ‘Devin Funchess’

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Minnesota

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


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Congratulations to freezer566 for an impressive win in this week’s Five-Spot Challenge despite an undesirable outcome on the field. His point differential of just 75 was the lowest of the season and 33 points better than second-place Boggie. Freezer566 wasn’t the closest in any single category, but was the most consistent across the board. He was just two short of Gardner’s first half passing total (100), nine short of Utah’s total yards (286), 12 over the minutes until Michigan’s first forced turnover (25), 18 short of Derrick Green’s rushing total (59), and 34 short of the longest kick or punt return (66). He wins a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Overall, there were a lot of close scores, as you can see in the weekly results. Second through sixth place were separated by just 17 points. KashKaav‘s prediction of 63 Derrick Green rushing yards was the closest to the correct answer for question one. BigHouseBrandon (66) was the only other contestant within single digits. Bluwolf77 was only one yard away from correctly predicting Utah’s total yards, while tooty_pops and kfarmer16 were both only six shy. Bigboyblue and Boggy were both the closest to guessing how many minutes into the game Michigan would record its first takeaway. Willie Henry’s pick-six occurred 25 minutes into the game and they were just four minutes off. MichiganMack correctly picked Gardner’s first half passing yards, while freezer566 and BigHouseBrandon were both only two away. Finally, JustJeepGear.com‘s prediction of 65 yards was the closest to the longest kick or punt return, which unfortunately, was Kaelyn Clay’s 66-yard punt return for touchdown in the second quarter.

No one correctly predicted the final score. In fact, no one was within two touchdowns of Michigan’s point total, as the closest guess was 24 points. Bigboyblue correctly predicted Utah’s total of 26. The average score prediction of the 22 contestants was Michigan 30 – Utah 24, while 19 of the 22 picked Michigan to win.

Kfarmer16 maintains his lead in the overall standings, though it shrunk to just two points over freezer566.

Michigan stays home to welcome Minnesota to town for the annual battle for the Little Brown Jug. Minnesota beat San Jose State 24-7 and is currently 3-1 with wins over Eastern Illinois (42-20) and Middle Tennessee (35-24) and a 30-7 loss to TCU.

Here are this week’s questions:

Washed out: Utah 26 – Michigan 10

Saturday, September 20th, 2014


Michigan vs Utah(MGoBlue.com)

It took more than two hours longer than expected, but the result was what no one rooting for the maize and blue wanted. No, that’s not a riddle; it describes Michigan’s 26-10 loss to Utah on Saturday, although Michigan’s offense remains a riddle no one except opposing defenses can solve.

For the second time in three weeks, Michigan’s offense failed to run a play in the opponent’s red zone and failed to score a touchdown, this time resulting in a 16-point loss despite out-gaining the Utes 308-286. The game was delayed two-and-a-half hours midway through the fourth quarter, but the outcome remained the same and Michigan fell to 2-2.

The game didn’t start poorly, however, as Michigan took an early 3-0 lead on a 42-yard Matt Wile field goal on the first possession on the game. Michigan’s defense then forced a three-and-out and the offense marched into Utah territory once again. This time, after back-to-back completions to Devin Funchess of 19 yards and 24 yards, the drive was stalled by a holding penalty on Erik Magnuson. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the Utah 43, Michigan faced 1st-and-20 from the 43 and was unable to get the first down. Outside of field goal range, and facing 4th-and-13, Michigan punted and downed the ball at the Ute 3-yard line.

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Final Stats
Michigan Utah
Score 10 26
Record 2-2 3-0
Total Yards 308 286
Net Rushing Yards 118 81
Net Passing Yards 190 205
First Downs 13 19
Turnovers 4 1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 6-50
Punts-Yards 5-194 5-213
Time of Possession 33:32 26:28
Third Down Conversions 9-of-19 6-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-30 4-22
Field Goals 1-for-1 4-for-5
PATs 1-for-1 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 0-of-0 2-of-3
Full Box Score

Utah got a big play on 3rd-and-5 from its own eight when quarterback Travis Wilson found running back Bubba Poole wide open for a screen pass and Poole raced 67 yards before he was brought down by Jourdan Lewis. Michigan’s defense held strong, forcing a field goal to tie the game at three.

Michigan’s offense went three-and-out, but Ute receiver Kaelyn Clay returned Will Hagerup’s punt 66 yards for a touchdown — his third return touchdown of the season. Suddenly, Michigan was down 10-3.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Wilson scrambled to his right and tried to hurdle a Michigan defender. Instead, he was hid mid-air by Joe Bolden, flipping over and landing awkwardly on his head. He was taken to the locker room and Michigan took advantage of his replacement, Kendal Thompson. On Utah’s next possession, Willie Henry sacked Thompson on 3rd-and-4, forcing a punt. Gardner was picked up on Michigan’s ensuing possession, but on 3rd-and-12, Henry made Michigan’s play of the game, picking off Thompson and carrying it into the end zone to tie the game at 10.

Utah responded with a 16-play, 54-yard field goal drive to take a 13-10 lead into the half, then went 67 yards in just five plays on its first possession of the second half. The drive was capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Wilson, who returned after getting stitches in his nose, to Dres Anderson.

After the two teams traded punts, Michigan moved the ball into Utah territory. On 3rd-and-8 from the Utah 45, Gardner completed a five-yard pass to Amara Darboh, setting up a 4th-and-3. Instead of punting to pin the Utes deep once again, Hoke elected to go for it, but Gardner’s roll-out came up a yard short. Utah took advantage of the short field position and kicked a 48-yard field goal to take a 23-10 lead.

Gardner was intercepted for the second time on the second play of Michigan’s next possession and Utah kicked another field goal, this time from 50 yards out to go ahead 26-10.

Shane Morris replaced Gardner, but threw an interception of his own that was returned 59 yards to the Michigan 17. A sideline penalty on Utah moved it back 15 yards, but then the skies opened up. The game was suspended for a total time of 2:24, and when it resumed with only a few hundred fans remaining — most wearing red — Utah missed a 41-yard field goal.

Morris lead what looked to be a promising drive, converting two long third downs, but fumbled at the Utah 47 and any hopes Michigan had of a comeback were dashed.

For the game, Gardner completed 14-of-26 for 148 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Morris went 4-of-13 for 42 yards, one touchdown, and one fumble. Funchess led all receivers with four catches for 82 yards, while Derrick Green led the way on the ground with 59 yards on 14 carries (4.2 yards per carry). Green was also Michigan’s second-leading receiver with two catches for 26 yards.

Wilson completed 14-of-20 for 172 yards and one touchdown, while Utah’s two star receivers, Anderson and Kenneth Scott, combined for 10 catches for 78 yards and a score.

Michigan’s defense held Utah to 81 yards rushing (2.2 yards per carry) and just 286 total yards — 271 yards below its season average — and just one touchdown and four field goals. Jake Ryan led the way with 13 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. Frank Clark added 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack, while Mario Ojemudia recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and Henry had the sack, interception, and score.

Michigan enters Big Ten play at 2-2, having out-gained every team it has played, but tormented by turnovers. The offense has yet to reach the red zone or score a touchdown against power-five teams, Notre Dame and Utah. The defense, however, has yet to allow an opponent to reach 300 yards of offense.

Minnesota (3-1) comes to town next Saturday looking to take back the Little Brown Jug. The Gophers have beaten Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, and San Jose State, and lost to TCU. The game will be televised by ABC at 3:30 p.m. EST.

M&GB staff predictions: Utah

Friday, September 19th, 2014


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Michigan let Miami (Ohio) hang around for a little over two quarters last week before stepping on the gas. Now Utah comes to town with an offense that make Michigan pay if the Wolverines turn the ball over. It seems most Michigan fans are equating Utah to a far inferior opponent, but the Utes are much better than we’re giving them credit for. Could they come into the Big House and win just like they did in 2008? Or will Michigan take care of business and head into conference play 3-1? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Utah
Justin 24 27
Sam 31 24
Derick 31 28
Josh 24 31
Joe 31 27
M&GB Average 28.2 27.4

Justin: Utah’s spread passing offense has scored 56 and 59 points in its fist two games and ranks 14th nationally with 557.5 total yards per game. It hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near as good as Michigan’s yet, but will the Wolverines be able to slow it down?

Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott will be a big test for Michigan’s secondary that may still be without Raymon Taylor. While Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers are talented, they’re young compared to the experienced Ute receivers. Quarterback Travis Wilson had a knack for committing turnovers when being pressured last season — he threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions — but he hasn’t really been challenged yet this season. If Michigan’s front seven can apply pressure and force some bad decisions the defense can slow down Utah’s offense. However, if it gives him time to throw, he can pick apart the defense just like Everett Golson did two weeks ago.

Michigan faces the same challenge on offense. Utah leads the nation with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss per game. We all know Devin Gardner’s inconsistencies when facing pressure, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of the young offensive line and its ability to handle Nate Orchard and the Utah pass rush. If it can give Gardner time to throw, Utah’s secondary is vulnerable. Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh quite a bit last week, but if Devin Funchess is still out tomorrow, can he do it again?

I think this will be a back-and-forth battle that will ultimately be decided on turnovers and special teams. Unfortunately, Michigan has been turnover-prone this season and has had lackluster special teams play, while Utah has a big advantage in that category with a near automatic kicker, a big-footed punter, and a home run threat return man. I hope I’m wrong.

Utah 27 – Michigan 24

Sam: It’s a testy time in Michigan Football history right now. The Wolverines have not won a Big Ten Championship in a decade, the Notre Dame series ended on the most rotten of notes, and Brady Hoke is looking like an embattled coach in his fourth season as the figurehead of the Maize and Blue.

Luckily for Hoke, the pitiful Big Ten is still up for grabs this season, and Michigan has one more week to shore things up on the field…but it doesn’t look like a week to relax. The Utah Utes, winners of two blowouts so far despite a shaky outlook before the season started, are less-than-a-touchdown underdogs and don’t seem to be fazed at all for this Saturday’s game. Junior quarterback Travis Wilson leads an aerial attack averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt on the season that is set up by a ground game averaging a not-so-impressive-considering-the-competition five yards per carry.

Michigan’s run defense has proved extremely effective in the early going while the secondary play has left much to be desired. If Raymon Taylor and/or Jarrod Wilson sit again, I’ll be…worried. Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Brennen Beyer, and Frank Clark are anchoring a tough front seven, but the cornerbacks will need to stick with their guys long enough to let the pressure get to the QB. Wilson is not a major threat to run, though back-up Kendal Thompson will see a few change-of-pace snaps, so it is imperative that Taylor, Jabrill Peppers, Blake Countess, Jourdan Lewis, and company are on their games.

I certainly have no idea what will come of this game. Nationally, pundits love Utah after seeing Michigan struggle out of the gates. The big question mark will be Michigan’s offense of course. The Wolverines should hold Utah under 25, so if Devin Gardner can stay calm in the pocket, step up under pressure, and fire bullets to (hopefully) Devin Funchess and company, I like the home team.

A close game will be no shocker, but I believe a blowout would go Michigan’s way. Ultimately, give me the Wolverines.

Michigan 31 – Utah 24

Derick:  Michigan hasn’t shown a flash of the performance it demonstrated against Appalachian State in the past two weeks, and if Brady Hoke’s team comes out slow against Utah it may fall to 2-2 in the non-conference season.

Derrick Green put another strong performance together against Miami (Ohio), and the offense will need him to shoulder the load again against this Pac-12 defense. If he can take pressure off of Devin Gardner, then Michigan has a great chance to control the game.

Michigan should bounce back from the adversity of the last two weeks and squeak out a win heading into Big Ten play.

Michigan 31 – Utah 28

Josh: This ain’t Urban Meyer’s Utah Utes but they are an explosive, high scoring team, to a point. Fresno State has give up 50-plus in all three of their games this year and Idaho St is a mid-level FCS team, so of course Utah has put up some crazy numbers. I circled this game as a toss-up and called it as one of my potential losses coming into the season. I haven’t changed my mind and depending on how the injuries play out Michigan may end up on the wrong end Saturday.

Before I go any further let me say I am a big fan of Blake Countess, he is a damn good ZONE cornerback but he is just awful as a press corner, especially against speedy receivers. He’s just not athletic enough to do it. His gift lies in baiting quarterbacks to think a receiver is open and then jumping the route for a nice pick or pass break-up. If he is made to play anything but zone against Utah I don’t like his chances. However, if some form of the combo of Lewis/Taylor/Peppers play the boundary, as we saw last week with Lewis and Peppers, I feel good about Michigan’s chances to lock down Utah’s receivers. The run defense has been rather stout thus far and I think that holds serve here against the Utes. The defense doesn’t concern me as it has been pretty solid through three game. For me, this game all boils down to the cornerback play. If Peppers/Lewis/Taylor are the guys pressing we’re in good shape, but as soon as Countess is called upon to play press odds are he’s gonna get beat and Utah will test him.

Offense is where I think we can run into some trouble. Every single team in America knows the formula to beat Michigan: pressure Devin Gardner and he will eventually turn it over. Utah is aggressive on defense and will pressure Gardner. Utah will be able to take advantage of turnovers and that could spell doom. If the offense can run the ball well, enough to keep the chains moving, then this shouldn’t be an issue, but if Gardner is put in third-and-long situations the offense will sputter. If Gardner can not turn it over, something that he struggles with immensely, the offense should be okay. But that is a big IF as we still have not seen the run game do anything against a decent opponent.

Devin Funchess may or may not be out, and I wouldn’t expect Brady Hoke to tip his hand regarding injuries, especially with his stud receiver. To be honest, I like our chances better if Funchess is out. Wait, what?! Yes, I like our chances better if Funchess is out. No, I’m not crazy…well, maybe. But hear me out. Gardner has a tendency to lock on to his No. 1, and then he has another tendency to force it to his No. 1. Funchess is a monster, we all know that, but when Gardner is under pressure (which he will be a lot come Saturday) he makes ill-advised (to put it lightly) throws and forces it to Funchess, which in turn leads to turnovers, which in turn often lead to bad losses. Without Funchess, Gardner (in my mind) will be less likely to force it to another receiver with whom he doesn’t have unfailing faith, as he does with Funchess. So somehow in my roundabout logic I think we’re better off without Funchess because Gardner won’t force so many bad passes and will be less likely to turn it over. On second thought, maybe I am crazy.

As with most games the better team does not always win, usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. With Gardner at quarterback (I’ve all but lost faith in him, way too inconsistent to be trusted week to week) that is always a likelihood and I hate to be the guy who picks us to lose again but I’m going to do it anyway. Gardner will be pressured non-stop, he will turn it over one too many times, Utah will capitalize and win a close one.

Utah 31 – Michigan 24

Joe: I am starting to get the same feeling I had last year as Michigan battled a string of inferior programs. It’s not a good feeling! I want to see that killer instinct from a hungry group of Wolverines. I want to see something from this team that screams “things will be different this year.” I think I’m starting to see a little bit of this in the defense and hope they continue the upward progression this week. Let’s finally get the offense to join in and hit the Big Ten schedule running next week.

Utah likes to run an up-tempo offense and score in bunches, so keeping their offense off the field will be key. If Michigan is able to establish the run game early and control the clock, they will be just fine. I can see Green going for 150 and two touchdowns and Gardner mixing in another two through the air. The defense will force a few timely turnovers and hold on late for a close win. Michigan pulls this one out and look forward to Minnesota.

Michigan 31 – Utah 27
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Utah game preview; a First Look at the Utes; our Week 3 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, grilled ravioli; a Q&A with Steve Bartle of the Utah blog Light the U; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Touch the BannerMGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

Michigan-Utah game preview

Friday, September 19th, 2014


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Just like Miami (Ohio) last week, the last time Michigan faced Utah, the Wolverines were just beginning a new era. Lloyd Carr had retired following the previous game, a 41-35 Capital One Bowl win over Florida, and Rich Rodriguez took over with hopes of bringing Michigan’s old school offense into the 21st century.

The very first game of his short-lived tenure in Ann Arbor was against a Utah team coming off of a 9-4 season. What wasn’t known at the time of Michigan’s 25-23 loss to the Utes was just how good that team would be. While Michigan slogged its way to a 3-9 season, Utah finished the year 13-0, ranked second nationally, and beat Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.

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Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – ABC
Utah Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (10th season)
Coaching Record: 76-39 overall (all at Utah)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Christensen (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Kalani Sitake (6th season)
Returning Starters: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (2-7 Pac-12)
Last Meeting: Utah 25 – Michigan 23 (2008)
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Record vs Pac-12: Michigan leads 48-24-1
Last win over Utah: 10-7 (2002)
Brady Hoke vs Utah:  0-2 (both at San Diego State)

There wasn’t anywhere to go but down from there and that’s just what the Utes have done in the five years since, from 10-3 in 2009 and 2010 to 8-5 in 2011 and 5-7 in 2012 and 2013. But last year’s 5-7 record is worse than the team really was, and this year’s team is certainly not the pushover most Michigan fans thought they would be prior to the season.

Last season, Utah handed Stanford the first of its three losses, but lost to Oregon State by three, 51-48, had a chance to tie at the end of a loss to UCLA, and gave up a 12-point fourth quarter lead in a loss to Arizona State. No, close losses don’t count for anything, but they do show how close the team was to a much better season, especially considering that starting quarterback Travis Wilson missed the final three games and played sparingly in the three before that. Five of those six were losses.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham demoted co-offensive coordinators Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson and brought in former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen to run the offense. Christensen didn’t have the same success at Wyoming as a head coach — though he was named Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2011 — as he did in his previous stop as Missouri’s offensive coordinator from 1997-2008. At Missouri, he guided one of the top offenses in the country. Erickson, meanwhile, was demoted to running backs coach and Johnson to quarterbacks coach.

Christensen’s offense has been a hit in Salt Lake City so far this season as Utah has beaten Idaho State 56-14 and Fresno State 59-27. The starters played only about a half in both games, but both were at home. The Utes haven’t had to travel yet, let alone all the way across the country. They lost four of five road games in 2013 and the only one they won was just down the road at BYU.

Let’s take a look at the match ups.

Michigan defense vs Utah offense: When Utah has the ball

The 57.5 points per game is third-best nationally, behind only Baylor (59.3) and Cincinnati (58). The running game ranks 24th (248 yards per game), the passing game ranks 29th (309.5), and the total offense ranks 14th (557.5).

Dres Anderson is as good a receiver as Michigan has faced so far (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Dres Anderson is as good a receiver as Michigan has faced so far (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The aforementioned Travis Wilson is back from a head injury that nearly cost him his career last season. After suffering a concussion against Arizona State on Nov. 9, Wilson had a CT scan that showed an enlarged intracranial artery. He was shut down from football for three months. He was re-evaluated in February and doctors ruled he could return to football, but he was still held out of contact in the spring. Now that he’s back in action, he’s making the most of his second chance. In the opener, Wilson completed 13-of-18 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown in just two quarters of work. He followed that up by going 11-of-20 for 181 yards and five touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters in Week 2. Perhaps most importantly, he hasn’t thrown an interception yet after throwing 16 a year ago.

Wilson has a pair of dangerous targets to throw to in senior Dres Anderson and junior Kenneth Scott. Anderson has 25 career starts under his belt and was honorable mention All-Pac-12 last season. He leads the Utes with 195 receiving yards through two games on seven catches (27.9 yards per catch). Two have gone for touchdowns, both against Fresno State. Although Scott doesn’t have the yards Anderson does (134) he leads the team with 10 receptions and three touchdowns. He missed the 2013 season after injuring his ankle in the first quarter of the first game, but has been Wilson’s favorite target thus far in 2014.

The only other pass catcher with more than five catches is senior tight end Westlee Tonga, who has six for 85 yards and a score. Senior receiver Andre Lewis has just one catch but it went for a 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Fresno State blowout, while sophomore Delshawn McClellan has three catches for 15 yards.

The running game is a three-headed attack along with Wilson’s ability to use his feet. Juniors Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole are the horses. Booker, a junior college transfer, leads the team with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries (7.3 yards per carry). Poole, who lead the Utes with 607 yards last season, has 19 carries for 96 yards (5.1 ypc) and a score. At 5’9″, 172-pounds, redshirt freshman Troy McCormick adds a different dimension than the bigger Booker and Poole. McCormick has 21 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown. Wilson is a capable runner as well, although his sack yardage hurts his average.

The line has a good amount of experience on the left side in junior left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi (24 career starts) and senior left guard Junior Salt (14). The rest of the line, however, is less experienced. Junior Siaosi Aiono started eight games at right guard in 2013, but started the Fresno State game at center. Sophomore Hiva Lutui started the opener, the first of his career, in Aiono’s absence. Redshirt sophomore Isaac Asiata started four games last season — three at right tackle — is the starting right guard, while redshirt sophomore J.J. Dielman got the first two starts of his career in the first two games at right tackle.

Michigan offense vs Utah defense: When Michigan has the ball

While the Utah offense has put up numbers in droves, the defense has done its part as well. It’s hard to really paint a true picture of the Utes defense at this point given the level of opponent they have faced so far and that the first team defense didn’t play much more than a half in each game.

What we do know is that the defensive line is one that could give Michigan’s young and embattled offensive line fits. It starts with senior defensive end Nate Orchard, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection last season, who has 25 career starts. He leads the team with 14 tackles, three for loss, and 2.5 sacks so far. The other end is redshirt sophomore Hunter Dimick, who started four games last season and also has 2.5 sacks this year. Redshirt junior Clint Shepard is one starting tackle and has three tackles for loss and a sack so far, while redshirt junior Viliseni Fauonoku (four tackles) and senior Sese Ianu (three tackles) have each started a game this season at the other tackle spot. Combined, the unit leads the nation with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss per game.

Nate Orchard was a high school teammate of Bryan Mone and Sione Houma and is the leader of Utah's defense (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Nate Orchard was a high school teammate of Bryan Mone and Sione Houma and is the leader of Utah’s defense (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Orchard played some linebacker against Fresno State and will likely line up there at times on Saturday, but juniors Jared Norris and Jason Whittingham are the true linebackers. Norris started seven games in 2013 and finished fifth on the team in tackles. He’s currently tied for the team lead with 14 and has two for loss. Whittingham was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection last season and has nine tackles so far this season. True sophomore Uaea Masina is in the rotation and has 10 tackles so far, but beyond those three it’s not a very deep unit.

The secondary has allowed 220.5 yards per game through the air thus far, including 283 to Fresno State’s offense that managed just 160 against USC in Week 1. Senior free safety Eric Rowe is the leader of the group with 37 starts under his belt. He has 14 tackles, a pass breakup, and a blocked kick so far. Senior strong safety Brian Blechen missed 2013 with an injury, but like Rowe, has 37 career starts. The cornerbacks are a grab bag with sophomore Reginald Porter, senior Davion Orphey, senior Wykie Freeman, redshirt sophomore Justin Thomas, and sophomore Dominique Hatfield each starting one of the two games. Orphey, a junior college transfer, has the most starting experience among the group, having started eight games in 2013. Senior Tevin Carter, also a junior college transfer, can start at safety and allow Rowe to play corner. He has 11 tackles, one for loss, so far, while Hatfield leads the team with two pass breakups. Utah hasn’t recorded an interception yet this season and has recovered just one fumble.

The other third: Special teams

Redshirt sophomore kicker Andy Phillips is a good one and also an interesting story. He was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 2007-11 before joining the Utes. He had never played football before walking on, and in his first season — last season — he made 17-of-20 field goal attempts, earning third-team Freshman All-America honors. He has only attempted one field goal so far this season, a 47-yarder, which he made.

Junior punter Tom Hackett led the Pac-12 last season with a punt average of 43.4 yards and is averaging a whopping 51.1 yards per punt so far this season. Of his 10 punts, six have gone more than 50 yards, five have been downed inside the 20, and only one has gone into the end zone for a touchback.

Senior receiver Kaelin Clay has already returned a punt and a kick for a touchdown this season. He’s averaging 15 yards per punt return and has only returned one kick, which he took 100 yards for the touchdown. Booker is the main kick returner, averaging 22.5 yards.

Prediction

Prior to the season, I, like everyone else, chalked this game up to a win. But three weeks into the season I’m not so sure. Utah has looked great, but hasn’t been tested. Michigan laid an egg in its only real test of the season and let lowly Miami (Ohio) hang around far too long last week. Plus, Utah had two weeks to prepare for Michigan.

For Michigan offensively, it will all come down to how well the line can handle the pass rush. Notre Dame stopped the run and pressured Gardner into mistakes, and Utah’s line has the ability to do the same. Will Doug Nussmeier have a better game plan in place to counter that?

Defensively, Michigan’s secondary will be tested with Anderson and Scott. Everett Golson was able to pick apart the Wolverine secondary and he lacked receivers with the type of skill those two have. It sounds like Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers will be the starting corners with Blake Countess at nickel. While that puts Michigan’s best press corners on the field, they also give up a lot of experience to the Utah receivers. If the line isn’t able to put pressure on Wilson, and instead allows him time to pick apart the secondary, it could be the Notre Dame game all over defensively.

Finally, if special teams comes in to play, Utah has the decided advantage with a reliable kicker, a punter that can change field position, and a return man that has already taken two to the house.

I don’t like that formula for a young Michigan team still searching for consistency. Perhaps the home environment will help Hoke’s squad pull it out, but I’m not convinced. I hope I’m wrong.

Utah 27 – Michigan 24

Utah Q&A with Steve Bartle of Light the U

Thursday, September 18th, 2014


Utah Q-A_banner

Each Thursday throughout the season we collaborate with that week’s opponent blog to get some questions answered by the guys who know more about their team than we do. This week, we partnered with Steve Bartle of the Utah blog, Light the U. He was kind enough to answer questions about the how Utah fans view Michigan, how new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has changed the offense, how Utah can stop Devin Funchess, and more. You can follow Light the U on Twitter at @LightTheU and you can follow Steve at @bartle21_56.

1. When Utah came to Ann Arbor in 2008, Michigan hadn’t really begun its downfall. It was the first season of Rich Rodriguez and there was a lot of excitement around the program. Now, after six down years, do Utah fans view Michigan in a different light? How is Michigan’s prestige now viewed to those out west compared to six years ago?

No, I don’t think Utah fans view Michigan much differently since our last trip there, in fact, there is a great amount of excitement among the fans. You would think with the lack of success that Michigan has had recently, coupled with Utah joining the Pac 12 and playing in stadiums like The Rose Bowl and The Colosseum that it may not be as big a deal, but to fans its still THE Big House… One of the most majestic and iconic places in all of college sports. It’s still a BIG, big deal.

Not only that, but the fact that our athletic director chose to schedule a 1-1 with Michigan by taking a two-year break from our heated and hated rivals, BYU (and I’m sure you guys can relate to how big of a deal it is to take a break from an Independent Religious Institution rivalry), I think speaks volumes about how highly regarded Michigan still is, at least out here. Rest assured, while the Wolverines have struggled more than the sports world is accustomed, to Utah fans UM will always be a big name program with a target on its back.

2. Utah’s offense was average to slightly below average last season (66th nationally in scoring, 76th in total offense, 72nd running, 62nd passing) and scored more than 40 points just twice. It has scored 56 and 59 in its first two games this season and averaged 557 yards. Is there really a big difference, or is it a result of the quality of opponents played so far? In what ways has Dave Christensen changed the offense?

With six offensive coordinators in six years, there has been a good amount of change to Utah’s offense. One thing that Dave Christensen brings, more so than the others, is know-how. Christensen knows what he wants out of the offense and he knows how to get it, which is something we’ve lacked. The No. 1 thing Christensen preaches is ”ball protection,” he does not want to turn it over. The next big change is tempo. Christensen wants to score, and he wants to score fast. The first three possessions versus Fresno State totaled 17 points in only 5:49 of possession. Again, he knows what he wants and how to get it.

Honestly, the offensive production was probably a little bit of both. Make no mistake, the first two games were not very difficult. Idaho State is… well, Idaho State… and if you can’t put up that kind of produciton against them you probably don’t belong in a Power 5 conference. Most of us at Light The U thought that Fresno State would present a much bigger challenge than they actually did, but after three straight games of giving up at least 52 points to the opposition, its obvious they just aren’t very good either. So, of course, the quality of opponent begs the question of how legitimate this improvement actually is. An interesting thing to keep in mind though, the starters only played the first half of each game. The second unit kept up the offensive pressure in the second half and scored 14 of the 56 against Idaho State, and 21 of the 59 against Fresno State, which leads to my next point…

New offensive coordinator Dave Chrsitensen has the Utah offense rolling through two games (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

New offensive coordinator Dave Chrsitensen has the Utah offense rolling through two games (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Utah has added more quality depth at the quarterback and skill positions. Something we’ve learned since joining the Pac12, is it’s one thing to have front line talent, and another to have talent in your second and third units. Depth is not only good in case of injuries, but also for production. Utah has been hurt by injuries the past few seasons, but it seems like we’ve added the necessary depth to be competitive among the “big boys.”

Probably the most important “addition” to the depth chart is 6’3”, 208-pound receiver Kenneth Scott. I say “addition” because he was a starter last year but is returning from a season ending injury that he suffered on the very first play of the season. A bigger, crisp-route-running, possession receiver, Scott has totaled 10 receptions for 134 yard and three touchdowns. Not only will he provide good production, but he’ll also keep defenses honest in defending Dres Anderson too. An explosive playmaker and statistically one of the best returning receivers in the Pac-12, Anderson is picking up where he left off last year with seven receptions for 194 yards (a 27.9 avg.) and two touchdowns.

Another good addition to the team is running back Davontae Booker. Part of a two-headed attack with Bubba Poole, Booker has been awfully impressive running the ball so far to the tune of 20 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns. A typical running back, he has the ability to pound the rock up the middle or bounce it outside. Poole is more of a pass catching running back who thrives in space. Not necessarily explosive, Poole has an uncanny ability to create something and will consistently get 7-8 yards per touch.

All of this would mean little without mentioning the return of starter Travis Wilson. At one point, the thought was he would be forced to medically retire after discovering an intracranial artery injury, he was medically cleared in the summer and has returned looking much better. He is making better decisions, and has been pretty accurate with his throws. Much like Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner, Wilson has struggled with consistency. Often locking on to one receiver and forcing throws into coverage last year, so far Wilson has thrown six touchdowns and 0 interceptions. If he continues to play like this, his improvement will be the biggest difference from last year.

3. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner struggles when facing pressure, but has a huge target in Devin Funchess (he didn’t play last week, but hopefully will this week). Does Utah’s defense have anyone that can cover Funchess, and do they also have the ability to force Gardner to make mistakes? I saw that Fresno State passed for almost 300 yards against Utah two weeks ago. Is the secondary vulnerable?

Do we have the ability to get pressure on Devin Gardner? The simple answer is yes. Kalani Sitake, the defensive coordinator, has earned a strong reputation in big games and will be dialing up something special for the UM offense. Nate Orchard is the name you’ll want to pay attention to. He’s going to be all over the field, lining up at defensive end and linebacker. Not only Orchard, but Hunter Dimick, Jason Fanaika, and Pita Taumoepenu are going to be doing all they can getting after Gardner. Dimick and Fanaika are your typical defensive ends, whereas Pita is a 6’2”, 230-pound edge rusher that is just explosive and relentless in pursuit. Not only that, but Utah will rotate anywhere from four to six defensive tackles throughout the game to stay fresh and on the attack.

Ok, lets be honest, at 6’5″, 230-pound and 4.3-4.4 forty time, Funchess is a freak of nature. With his size and athleticism, I’m not sure there is a player out there that would be able to cover him alone. We’re going to give it a shot though, and the player that you’ll most likely see cover him is Eric Rowe. At 6’1”, 201-pounds and a reported 4.4 forty-yard dash, he possesses pretty good measurables. Even with those measurables, this is Rowe’s first season at cornerback after playing the previous three at free safety, Rowe has looked just decent in coverage. All I’m saying is, if I were Devin Gardner, I’d be throwing it to Funchess as often as possible.

The other cornerback you’ll see is Dominique Hatfield or “Domo”, who is also in his first season as a corner after spending last year at receiver. Domo is quite the natural, having only been playing on the defensive side for about a month, he has already taken over the starting spot opposite of Rowe. Even though he’s only been on the defensive side for a month, I can’t stress enough just how impressive he has been. Even though a majority of the 300 yards passing we gave up was against our second unit, Devin Gardner is a far superior quarterback to what we saw from Fresno State. So yes, I would say that our secondary is vulnerable, which makes it that much more important for us to get pressure on Gardner.

4. What matchup worries you the most? And what matchup do you feel Utah has the biggest advantage?

As I said previously, Funchess is a freak, and absolute match-up nightmare. He is my biggest worry, period. If he and Gardner find a rhythm, it could be a very long afternoon. Outside of that, Coach Hoke has talked about establishing the run and when you have Derrick Green, who is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and De’Veon Smith averaging 7.9, yeah that is a big…no, a huge worry. Especially when our defensive line was called “soft” by Idaho State coaches, after we got torched by them for 179 rushing yards. We bounced back against Fresno State limiting them to 55 yards. We are inexperienced and somewhat light at defensive tackle, and that leaves me concerned. Basically, which rush defense do we see?

Our biggest advantage is in the passing game with Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott. Michigan’s cornerbacks have not been very impressive so far, probably due to injuries to some key players, but it is what it is. Anderson and Scott have looked great, and are out to prove that they are the best duo in Pac-12. Besides those two, a key for Utah is getting a third pass catcher going. Westlee Tonga is a solid receiving tight end, but something I’m very interested to see is how much we get Kaelin Clay involved in the passing game this week. Clay, if you remember, was a SportsCenter No. 1 play for returning a kickoff and punt for touchdowns, he’s a very explosive athlete.

5. What’s your prediction? Who will win and why?

While this isn’t a conference game, this is an important game for both teams. For Utah, a road victory is something that has come few and far between. For Michigan, needing to re-establish themselves after that Notre Dame loss. While I don’t have the same access to Michigan, the vibe I get from Utah players is quite positive. There is a belief that hasn’t been there recently.

Drum roll please…

My prediction – Utah 31 Michigan 27

Trust me, I can easily see this game going the other way. Utah has not won a big game on the road in forever, and Michigan has a very solid home record versus non-conference opponents. Like I said, there is a belief at Utah and I’m totally sippin the kool aid. Now, outside of winning the turnover battle, priority No. 1 for Utah has to be stopping the run. I feel keeping Gardner in third-and-long situations plays to our strength, which is getting pressure on the quarterback. If Michigan establishes the run, all bets are off. Travis Wilson has to continue to take care of the ball, get it to his skill guys, and let them create.

This should be a very competitive and fun game to watch. Both teams have so much on the line. Ute fans are definitely looking forward to Saturday. Here’s to an injury free and very competitive game. Go Utes!

Final Look: Miami (Ohio)

Thursday, September 18th, 2014



Jake Butt vs Miami Ohio(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio). It was a bit too closer for comfort in the first half thanks to three Michigan turnovers, but the Wolverines pulled away in the second half and the stat sheet shows a convincing win.

This Saturday, Michigan hosts a 2-0 Utah squad that has been piling up points in the early going. But before we fully turn our attention to Utah, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s win last Saturday.

Three key moments

1. Lewis takes one away

All offseason Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison talked about a more aggressive defense with press coverage that would create more takeaways. But that press coverage got exposed against Notre Dame, and through the first two games of the season, it hadn’t forced a single turnover.

Against Miami (Ohio) last Saturday, Michigan took an early 3-0 lead with a 29-yard Matt Wile field goal. Miami started its first possession on its own 19. The first play was a one-yard run, and back-to-back penalties — a false start and a delay of game — moved the RedHawks back to the 10. On 2nd-and-19, quarterback Andrew Hendrix dropped back to pass and lobbed one up along the right sideline. Sophomore defensive back Jourdan Lewis, who was raved about all spring, and was filling in for injured starter Raymon Taylor, was in perfect position. He jumped up and snagged the pass and landed along the sideline, just in bounds for Michigan’s first takeaway of the season. It gave the Wolverines possession on the Miami 37-yard line and led to…

Jourdan Lewis recorded his first career interception (MGoBlue.com)

Jourdan Lewis recorded his first career interception (MGoBlue.com)

2. Darboh’s touchdown stretch

Michigan started the game with a field goal and got the ball right back when Jourdan Lewis intercepted quarterback Andrew Hendrix at the Miami 37. A six-yard run by Gardner and an eight-yard run by Derrick Green gave Michigan a first down. Gardner then completed a four-yard pass to Jehu Chesson and Green rushed for two yards, giving Michigan a third down at the Miami 17. Starting the game with two straight field goals, rather than touchdowns, against a team riding an 18-game losing streak would have caused some concern, especially coming off of the program’s first shutout in 30 years.

On 3rd-and-4, Garner threw a slant to Amara Darboh, who caught the ball at the 10, got his ankles wrapped up by the defensive back at the five, and laid out for the goal line. He stretched the ball over the line just before his elbow hit and gave Michigan a 10-0 lead. Darboh finished the game with six catches for 88 yards and the touchdown, the first of his career.

3. Butt’s big grab

After Darboh’s touchdown pass, Michigan turned the ball over three times in the second quarter to let Miami back into the game. Miami tied it up at 10 before Green put Michigan back ahead 17-10 heading into the half. Michigan punted away its first two possessions of the second half, and nervousness spread throughout the Big House crowd. Would Michigan let Miami hang around long enough, just like it did Akron and UConn a year ago, that it would take a heroic effort to pull out a win against a far inferior team?

Enter Jake Butt. The sophomore tight end missed spring practice and fall camp after tearing his ACL in February and played only a few snaps in the Week 2 loss to Notre Dame. However, he was back in action against Miami, and made his presence felt.

Michigan took possession with five minutes left in the third quarter, still leading by just seven points. On the first play, Gardner floated a pass across the middle towards Butt, but the defensive back was in position to make the interception. Butt came back for it and snagged it from the defender’s hand for a 22-yard gain. De’Veon smith ran for 12 yards on the next play, setting Michigan up with first down at the Miami 29. Gardner faked a quick out to Darboh along the left sideline and Butt ran right past the safety that had cheated up. Gardner lobbed the pass up to a wide open Butt, who caught the ball at the eight-yard line and waltzed into the end zone. The score gave Michigan some breathing room.

The numbers game

75: The win was the 75th of Brady Hoke’s career, including his previous stints at Ball State and San Diego State. He is now 75-64 in 12 seasons

33: The final tally of Miami (Ohio)’s rushing yards, the lowest Michigan has allowed in a game since Bowling Green was held to 32 on Sept. 25, 2010

4,986: Devin Gardner’s career passing yards. He passed Steve Smith for eighth on Michigan’s career list

365: The number of passing yards Gardner needs to pass Tom Brady for seventh on the career list

7: Gardner’s rank in career touchdowns (39), passing Todd Collins. He needs four more to pass Steve Smith for sixth

80%: Michigan’s red zone touchdown percentage so far this season. The Wolverines have scored on all 10 trips and have scored touchdowns on eight of 10

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half or turnover on downs

Vote for the performance of the game

Previous winners:
Appalachian State: Devin Gardner (13-of-14 for 173 yds, 3 TD) & Devin Funchess (7 rec for 95 yds, 3 TD) – Tie
Notre Dame: Devin Funchess (9 receptions for 107 yards)

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Bouncing back: Michigan 34 – Miami (Ohio) 10

Saturday, September 13th, 2014


Derrick Green vs Miami(MGoBlue.com)

Looking to begin a new points-scored streak after the previous one of 30 years came to an end last week, Michigan hosted a Miami (Ohio) team hoping to end a dubious streak of its own: an 18-game losing streak. Like fellow Mid-American Conference foe Akron a year ago, Miami put up a fight, but this time Michigan shrugged it off and turned a close ballgame into a runaway win, 34-10.

Michigan wasted no time putting points on the board this Saturday, taking the opening possession to the Miami 12-yard line and kicking a 29-yard field goal. Jourdan Lewis picked off an Andrew Hendrix pass on 2nd-and-19, and five plays later Devin Gardner connected with Amara Darboh for a 17-yard touchdown pass. Michigan led 10-0 and looked to be well in its way to a blowout like it had in Week 1.

But then everything started to come unraveled. Three consecutive Michigan turnovers let Miami right back in the game. First, Darboh fumbled at the Miami 21-yard line after picking up 22 yards, and although Michigan’s defense forced Miami to punt, Gardner gave it right back two plays later with an interception over the head of Jehu Chesson. This time, given great field position at the Michigan 35, Miami took advantage with a 26-yard field goal.

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Final Stats
Michigan Miami (Ohio)
Score 34 10
Record 2-1 0-3
Total Yards 460 198
Net Rushing Yards 276 33
Net Passing Yards 184 165
First Downs 23 8
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 7-40
Punts-Yards 4-172 8-301
Time of Possession 34:05 25:55
Third Down Conversions 6-of-13 2-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-12 1-7
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 2-of-2
Full Box Score

Miami pooch-kicked the ensuing kickoff and caught Michigan off guard. Wyatt Shallman fumbled the catch and Miami pounded on it at the Michigan 21. Four plays later, Hendrix found running back Dawan Scott for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10.

Michigan answered with its most important drive of the season to-date, riding Derrick Green down the field. After a 26-yard completion to Darboh and then a seven-yard sack, Gardner handed off to Green four straight plays. Green went for 27, 11, eight, and one, the final getting into the end zone to give Michigan 17-10 lead, which the Wolverines took into the locker room.

Neither team could muster any offense to start the second half as Miami punted away its first three possessions and Michigan its first two. Finally, Michigan broke through with a big-play drive. Gardner found Jake Butt for a 22-yard gain to the Miami 41, then De’Veon Smith rushed for 12. On 1st-and-10 from the Miami 29, Gardner lofted up a pass to a wide open Butt for a touchdown to give Michigan some breathing room.

Hendrix completed a 31-yard pass to David Frazier at the Michigan 28, but the RedHawks were unable to complete the drive. Miami tried to convert a 4th-and-14, but Brennen Beyer pressured Hendrix and forced an incomplete pass.

Michigan turned to Green once again on its next possession to ice the game. Green carried the ball on seven of the drive’s nine plays, picking up 50 yards including a 12-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 31-10.

Shane Morris took over on Michigan’s final possession, leading Michigan from its own 19 to the Miami 23. On the drive, Morris scrambled for 27 yards and nearly threw a touchdown pass, but Chesson couldn’t hang on. Matt Wile kicked a 40-yard field goal to reach the final score of 34-10.

If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the box score, you would assume Michigan won easily. Michigan out-gained Miami 460-198, picked up 23 first downs to Miami’s eight, held the RedHawks to just 2-of-12 on third down, and led the possession battle 34:05 to 25:55. But it was three second quarter turnovers that kept Miami in the game and sent boos raining down from the Big House crowd.

Gardner finished the game 13-of-20 for 184 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, but it was Green who stole the show. The sophomore carried the ball 22 times for 137 yards and a score, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He showed a much better ability to find the hole than he did a week ago, and on his touchdown run, showed the ability to bounce outside and outrun the defense to the edge. Without Devin Funchess, who missed the game with an ankle injury, Darboh led all receivers with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown, while Butt caught three passes for 59 yards and a score.

As a team, Michigan rushed for 276 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, and held Miami to just 33 yards rushing on 24 carries. Joe Bolden led the defense with seven tackles, while Beyer recorded Michigan’s only sack of the game.

Michigan hosts Utah next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Utes are 2-0 and had a bye week this week. Stay tuned for more coverage of Michigan’s win over Miami and previews of next week’s game.

M&GB staff predictions: Miami (Ohio)

Friday, September 12th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Miami comes to Ann Arbor riding an 18-game losing streak, hoping to do what Toledo did a few years ago and what Akron nearly pulled off last year: pull off a MAC win in the Big House. Head coach Chuck Martin knows Michigan well and will have his team prepared. Could we be in for another huge letdown? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Miami
Justin 42 17
Sam 54 6
Derick 52 10
Josh 42 17
Joe 44 10
M&GB Average 47 12

Justin: Martin will have a good game plan for Michigan, but lacks the talent and depth required to be competitive. Andrew Hendrix will test Michigan’s secondary and get a couple of big plays, but Michigan’s front seven will make its mark on an offensive line that has given up nine sacks through two games.

Devin Gardner will look for Devin Funchess early and often and also benefit from Jake Butt’s return. The running game will look much better than it did last week, but that still won’t give us any confidence in it beyond Saturday.

Michigan 42 – Miami 17

Sam: It can’t be that time again so soon can it? That feeling of impending doom at the start of every Michigan game? Well…I guess we will just wait and see. That sure worked out last season.

After a crushing 31-0 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame in a game that meant a LOT to Michigan Football but apparently didn’t mean much to Brady Hoke and this team, the Wolverines welcome the second patty-cake of the season to the Big House.

Miami of Ohio, they of the 18 straight losses (including 13 by double digits…but hey, they gave Eastern Kentucky a run for their money!!), will provide the competition(?) this Saturday in front of a crowd with plenty of leg room and not much reason to cheer.

Michigan will roll, because Miami is unspeakably terrible, but it won’t mean much. Even if they did lose, it probably wouldn’t damper Hoke’s outlook on the season, because, after all, the RedHawks are not in the Big Ten.

Anyway, expect to see much of the same as against Appalachian State. The offensive line will look wonderful, the secondary will be world class, and everything will be rosy again. Maybe that time will have to wait just one more week. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 54 – Miami (Ohio) 6

Derick

Michigan failed to show up for the biggest nonconference game of the season, and now it has to avoid any carryover as Miami (Ohio) comes to the Big House. The Wolverines were dominated in every facet of the game in South Bend, but should look much better against a winless MAC opponent. Michigan will blast the RedHawks on Saturday, but it won’t make up for the debacle last week. More importantly, will any major changes be implemented by Brady Hoke, who’s feeling the heat now?

Michigan 52 – Miami (Ohio) 10

Josh

Well, I hate to say it but I was right about Michigan’s potential struggles last week in the pass game, lack of run game, no pass rush and turnover Gardner showing up. Let’s hope my optimism against this week’s opponent carries over like my pessimism did last week.

Miami (Ohio) comes at the perfect time and should be a nice confidence booster heading into the Utah game (which I circled as a trap game heading into the season). Unlike Akron and UConn, Miami (Ohio) is actually pretty bad, 18-game losing streak bad. Coming off a loss to an FCS team I don’t think the RedHawks will put up much of a fight, though their passing game does concern me a bit with our depleted secondary. Hoke doesn’t talk about injuries (in case you haven’t heard) so who knows if Raymon Taylor and Jabrill Peppers are ready to go. They likely won’t run the ball so Michigan can commit most of their efforts to stopping the pass.

Expect Doug Nussmeier to get a little more aggressive than he was in weeks 1 and 2 and look to throw the ball over the top a few times to open up the defense. Devin Funchess is still a nightmare match up and he’ll come down with most jump balls so why not send him deep? Dennis Norfleet gave us glimpses (which is all he ever seems to give us) of what he can do in the slot and if the offense can establish a downfield threat it’ll open things up in the short and intermediate passing game, and run game. The Green/Smith combo should have a nice day but I doubt we’ll see the kind of numbers they put up against Appalachian State.

I don’t see Michigan suffering a ‘hangover’ from the Notre Dame debacle, though I question the “it was just one game” comments. Regardless, the Irish played very well last week and took advantage of all their opportunities via short fields and turnovers. No, Michigan didn’t play well at all but as much as I hate to admit it Notre Dame is very good team and should win nine or 10 games, so it’s not like Michigan just lost to Sisters of the Poor. That said, Michigan struggled with cupcakes last year and I think that is still very fresh in their minds. They will come in mentally ready and should roll over the RedHawks with relative ease. It won’t be an Appalachian State style rolling but Michigan is a 30-point favorite for a reason.

Michigan 42 – Miami (Ohio) 17

Joe

This is where we find out what this Michigan team is made of. We’ve heard all week long that this team has great leadership and will not get discouraged by last week’s shutout loss…it’s first in 30 years by the way. While I hope this to be the case, I am extremely skeptical. I need to see some MOXY and ATTITUDE from this group and see it early on Saturday.

With that being said, I feel the offense will be able to run the ball at will against an overmatched Miami squad. I can see both running backs going for over 125 yards and Gardner throwing for two touchdowns in this rebound game. Funchess will have his usual 100-plus-yard game and a touchdown by half. I am looking for a strong defensive performance with some early turnovers to get the momentum and crowd back into things. If Michigan is able to start fast, this will be a cakewalk. If Michigan struggles early, the Hoke teams tend to tighten up an keep things interesting for three quarters. I think this Wolverines group rebounds behind a strong running game and fired up defense. Michigan improves to 2-1 with a victory over the RedHawks of Miami.

Michigan 44 – Miami (Ohio) 10
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Miami (Ohio) game preview; a First Look at the RedHawks; our Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Spatchcock RedHawk; a Q&A with Chuck LaPlante, the Miami writer for the MAC SB Nation site Hustle Belt; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. I also answered some questions for Hustle Belt.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Touch the BannerMGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting Notre Dame tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

Michigan-Miami (Ohio) game preview

Friday, September 12th, 2014


Game Preview_Miami_banner

The last time Michigan faced Miami (Ohio) the Wolverines were beginning anew. Rich Rodriguez had taken over from Lloyd Carr and excitement surrounded the program, full of visions of sugar plums and high-flying spread offenses. The 2008 team opened the season with a 25-23 loss to a Utah squad that went 13-0 and finished ranked No. 2 nationally by the Associated Press. Rodriguez picked up his first win the following week against Miami (Ohio), 16-6.

Tomorrow when Miami comes to town, Michigan is in a much different spot. No longer are Mid-American Conference-level teams scared to step foot in the Big House. Since that 2008 win, Michigan is just 41-35 overall with a loss to Toledo and a near loss to Akron.

UM-Miami-small-final
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – Big Ten Network
Miami Head Coach: Chuck Martin (1st season)
Coaching Record: 74-9 overall (0-2 at Miami)
Offensive Coordinators: George Barnett (1st season)
Eric Koehler (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Pawlowski (1st season)
Returning Starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 0-12
Last Meeting: UM 16 – Miami 6 (2008)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 5-0
Record vs MAC: Michigan leads 33-1
Largest win over Miami: 55-0 (1924)
Closest win over Miami:  16-6 (2008)
Brady Hoke vs Miami:  2-2
Brady Hoke vs MAC: 32-21

Miami, on the other hand, isn’t exactly the class of the MAC. The school that once sent Michigan its most beloved coach, Bo Schembechler, and is known as the cradle of coaches, is still searching for its next big-time coach. After three years of decline under former Michigan State offensive coordinator and Jim Tressell protege Don Treadwell, the RedHawks turned to Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Unlike Treadwell, Martin isn’t a first-time head coach. He succeeded Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State in 2004 when Kelly left for Central Michigan and continued Kelly’s success, winning two national championships and setting a Division II record with 40 straight wins. In six years, he compiled a record of 74-7 before rejoining Kelly at Notre Dame in 2010.

In South Bend, Martin served as defensive backs coach his first two seasons before taking over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2012 and 2013. The Irish weren’t exactly known for their offense those two seasons — they ranked 54th and 67th in total offense those two seasons — but the success was impressive enough to land his first Division 1 head coaching job.

Miami had a 10-1 season in 1998 under Randy Walker and a 13-1 season in 2003 under Terry Hoeppner, finishing ranked 10th nationally that season. But in the 10 years since, the RedHawks have had just three winning seasons. Michael Haywood put together a great turnaround in 2010, transforming a 1-11 team in his first season into a 10-4 squad in year two, but then he bolted for Pittsburgh, where he never coached after being arrested for domestic violence. Treadwell took over and went 4-8 in each of his first two seasons and started 0-5 last season before being fired on Oct. 6. Miami finished the season 0-12.

Miami opened this season with a 42-27 loss to Conference-USA favorite Marshall and then lost to FCS foe Eastern Kentucky 17-10 a week ago. Against Marshall, Miami fell behind 28-3 by halftime, but pulled within 28-20 at the end of the third quarter. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth, but Marshall scored again to put it away with two minutes remaining. Against Eastern Kentucky, Miami dominated the game statistically, but had trouble finding the end zone. Miami scored on its first drive and held a 7-3 halftime lead, then widened it to 10-3 midway through the third. But EKU scored two touchdowns down the stretch to hand Miami its 18th-straight loss.

Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Miami match up.

Michigan defense vs Miami offense: When Miami has the ball

Martin’s offense will look similar to Notre Dame’s without the talent, though it certainly helps that he has one of his quarterbacks along with him. Andrew Hendrix spent four seasons at Notre Dame, where he played in 16 games in backup duty. He went 25-of-58 for 360 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions and also set the Notre Dame single game quarterback rushing record with 111 yards against Air Force in 2011. He graduated from Notre Dame last December and elected to follow Martin to Oxford for his grad-year season.

Chuck Martin knows Michigan well and will try to replicate what his former boss did last week (Miami University Athletics)

Chuck Martin knows Michigan well and will try to replicate what his former boss did last week (Miami University Athletics)

Despite being a former four-star recruit, Hendrix never could beat out Tommy Rees and Everett Golson in South Bend. Still, his familiarity with Martin’s offense makes him the best choice for the job this fall. And he has certainly been called on. Through the first two games, Hendrix has completed 49-of-101 passes for 677 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. By comparison, Devin Gardner has only attempted 46 passes so far — three fewer than Hendrix has completed.

Miami’s offense currently ranks 18th nationally in passing, averaging 338.5 yards per game. Only 15 teams in the country have thrown for more yards so far and only four teams have attempted more passes. However, Miami has fewer touchdown passes than the other four, and only four of the 17 teams with more passing yards per game have fewer touchdown passes than the RedHawks.

With such an active passing game, Miami naturally has a pair of receivers averaging over 100 yards per game in senior David Frazier and redshirt sophomore Rokeem Williams. Frazier has caught 13 passes for 215 yards, but no touchdowns, while Williams has caught nine for 204 yards and one touchdown. They’re both decent sized receivers at 6’0″, 180 and 6’1″, 204, respectively. Then there’s 5’10″, 180-pound sophomore Jared Murphy, who has five receptions for 83 yards and a score, and tight end Alex Welch, who has six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.

While the passing game is moving the chains, the running game is stuck in neutral. Miami ranks 116th nationally in rushing, averaging just 80 yards per game. Only eight teams in the country are averaging fewer, but none of them have attempted as many rushes as Miami has (74). Only five teams have fewer yards per carry than Miami’s 2.16.

Redshirt sophomore running back Spencer McInnis leads the team with 54 yards on 11 carries (4.9 yards per carry), while redshirt junior Spencer Treadwell has 47 yards on 10 carries (4.7 ypc). Hendrix has the most carries on the team (36), though if you remove sacks, his 27 carries for 40 yards are just 1.4 yards per carry. Receiver Dawan Scott actually has the most non-quarterback carries with 13, but has just 36 yards (2.8 ypc).

The line brought a combined 99 career starts into the season, but allowed 49 sacks a year ago. Already through two games this season, Miami has allowed nine.

Michigan offense vs Miami defense: When Michigan has the ball

Last season, Miami’s defense ranked 115th nationally in total defense, 113th in rush defense, and 106th in pass defense. So far this season, those numbers are far improved, but level of competition plays into that — namely, playing Eastern Kentucky. Miami ranks 60th in total defense, 55th in rush defense, 75th in pass defense, and 91st in scoring defense.

Quinten Rollins, a star for Miami's basketball team, is moonlighting at cornerback this season (Stephan Savoia, AP)

Quinten Rollins, a star for Miami’s basketball team, is moonlighting at cornerback this season (Stephan Savoia, AP)

Marshall put up 432 yards of offense in Week 1, 261 through the air and 171 on the ground. Marshall running back Devon Johnson ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries (7.9 ypc), while quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 20-of-32 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Week 2 was a different story as Miami’s defense limited EKU to 280 total yards and just 82 on the ground.

The front four consist of redshirt sophomore defensive end J’Terius Jones (6’3″, 245), junior defensive end Bryson Albright (6’5″, 243), junior defensive tackle Mitchell Winters (6’5″, 285), and redshirt sophomore nose tackle Jimmy Rousher (6’2″, 288). Jones currently ranks third on the team with 11 tackles, second with 2.5 tackles for loss, and tied for the lead with two sacks. He also has a fumble recovery, while Albright has eight tackles and a sack.

Another Notre Dame transfer is featured on defense, grad-year senior outside linebacker Lo Wood, who played in 32 games for the Irish. He has eight tackles so far. The other outside linebacker is redshirt junior Joe Donlan, who has 16 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a sack. Junior Kent Kern, a second-team All-MAC selection last season, is the middle linebacker and leads the team with 23 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks, and also has two pass breakups.

The secondary includes a converted Miami basketball player who ranks second in Miami history and 12th in MAC history in steals. Quinten Rollins switched sports and is now a starting cornerback and continued his penchant for thievery as the only player on the team with an interception so far this season. Opposite him is redshirt sophomore Jay Mastin, who has five tackles and half of a tackle for loss. The safeties are senior Jarrell Jones, who has 10 tackles, and redshirt sophomore Marshall Taylor, who has five tackles and two pass breakups.

The other third: Special teams

Junior kicker Kaleb Patterson has made 3-of-5 field goals with a long of 24 and one blocked. He has made 22-of-29 the last two years with a long of 52. Redshirt junior punter Christian Koch is averaging 44.3 yards per punt with a long of 60 and two downed inside the 20. Redshirt sophomore receiver Fred McRae IV is the main man in the return game, averaging 13.5 yards per kick return and 10.5 yards per punt return.

Prediction

There are a couple of scenarios coming into this game. One is that Michigan still feels the weight of last week’s embarrassment, has no confidence, and effectively lets Notre Dame beat them twice. The other is that Michigan shakes off last week’s loss, uses it as a spark, and devours a MAC snack. I think the later is more likely.

You can be sure Martin has spoken to Kelly this week to try to figure out how he was able to have such success last Saturday, but the fact of the matter is Martin lacks the talent Kelly had. Everett Golson played a flawless game and I wouldn’t expect Hendrix to do the same. Will he make some big plays? Probably. Especially if Jabrill Peppers is still out and Raymon Taylor can’t go. Michigan’s secondary is vulnerable right now and the Miami passing game will be a good test. However, this could be the game that gets Michigan’s pass rush going, given that Miami is allowing 4.5 sacks per game.

The Michigan offense will move the ball just like Marshall did, and while Miami doesn’t have anyone that can cover Devin Funchess, it would be nice to see Devin Gardner develop more cohesion with his other receivers. It would also be nice to see Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith put together a rushing performance more like Week 1 than last week. We certainly won’t see 350 rushing yards, but should hope for at least 200.

Michigan will be much more efficient than it was last week, and while Miami will make a few big plays, it will be too one-dimensional to really challenge the Wolverines.

Michigan 42 – Miami 17

Final Look: Notre Dame

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014


Gardner vs ND(MGoBlue.com)

Last season, Michigan pulled off a big win over Notre Dame in the Big House, a performance that garnered some (premature) national championship talk. A week later, lowly Akron came to town and nearly pulled off a monumental upset. In fact, Michigan needed a last second goal line stop to stave off defeat.

This time around, Michigan heads into a matchup with lowly Miami (Ohio) with its tail between it legs, fresh off of a humiliating 31-0 defeat in South Bend. Before we fully turn our attention to Miami, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s loss last Saturday.

Three key moments

Typically, this will feature three big moments that helped Michigan win the game, but that doesn’t mean they will always be positive. In the case of Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, there isn’t much positive to glean, so here are three key moments that shaped the game.

1. Matt Wile’s missed field goals

Notre Dame won the coin toss and elected to receive, thinking that they could set the tone of the game by marching down the field and scoring. But Michigan’s defense held firm and forced a punt. The Michigan offense took the field full of confidence and wasted no time moving the chains. On the second play, Devin Gardner hit Devin Funchess for 12 yards. On the next play, Dennis Norfleet rambled 13 yards and Michigan was already to midfield. Michigan converted a fourth down and then Funchess caught a seven-yard pass at the ND 30. But the drive stalled there as a pass to Norfleet lost two, and on 3rd-and-5, Derrick Green picked up three. Matt Wile trotted onto the field to attempt a 46-yard field goal to give Michigan an early three-point lead. But it missed wide right. Notre Dame answered with an eight-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to take an early 7-0 lead.

Matt Wile's missed field goals on Michigan's first two drives were demoralizing in a tough road environment (MGoBlue.com)

Matt Wile’s missed field goals on Michigan’s first two drives were demoralizing in a tough road environment (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan got the ball back, and on the third play, Gardner found Funchess for 27 yards to get into Irish territory again. On first down from the ND 34, center Jack Miller false started, moving Michigan back five yards. Three plays later, Michigan faced 4th-and-6 instead of 4th-and-1, so Wile came in to attempt another field goal, this time from 48 yards out. His plant foot slipped and the kick never had a chance. Six points left on the field.

Notre Dame didn’t score on its next possession, instead punting it back to Michigan, but this time the offense was unable to string together a drive. We will never know how the game would have changed had Wile made those two field goals, but Michigan would have at the very least led 3-0, trailed 7-3, then pulled within 7-6 early in the second quarter. In reality, it snowballed from there and Michigan’s offense that moved the ball fairly well on its first two possessions went into desperation mode. Even after the Irish scored again, heading into the half down 14-6 would have been much more manageable, until…

2. Notre Dame’s third touchdown

After Notre Dame went up 14-0, Michigan got a seven-yard run by Norfleet on the first play of its ensuing possession. But then the Devin Gardner tuck rule that wasn’t the tuck rule fumble occurred and Michigan lost 12 yards. Facing 3rd-and-20, Nussmeier elected to go the safe route with a Justice Hayes draw that gained 10. Michigan punted back to Notre Dame.

A 12-yard punt return gave the Irish possession on their own 44 with 1:24 remaining in the half. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-1 at the Michigan 24, Golson lofted a perfect pass into the end zone and William Fuller leapt over Blake Countess for the touchdown. That play was essentially the death blow. At halftime, trailing 21-0, the game felt completely insurmountable. Had that pass gone incomplete and Michigan held ND to a field goal, 17-0 would have somehow felt better. And had Michigan made its two field goals, 17-7 would have felt even better, especially since Michigan was getting the ball to start the second half. But that’s a lot of ifs.

3. Gardner’s first interception

While the 21-0 halftime lead felt more like 49-0 because Michigan’s offense hadn’t put up any points and the defense was allowing Golson to pick it apart, there was still a sliver of hope for most Michigan fans because of the comebacks the Wolverines have pulled off against the Irish in recent years. But that was all dashed when Gardner was picked off on the fifth play of the third quarter.

Michigan had picked up a first down on a nine-yard Gardner run and a two-yard Derrick Green run. Gardner then ran for six yards, but on second down, Green was tackled for a three-yard loss, setting up 3rd-and-7 at the Michigan 39. Gardner dropped back to pass and fired across the middle for tight end Khalid Hill, but safety Max Redfield stepped in front and picked it off. He returned it 17 yards to the Michigan 38, and although the Michigan defense forced ND to punt, the Irish downed the punt at the 2-yard line. The interception flipped field position and it paid off for the Irish on their next drive as they punched it in for a 28-0 lead.

Given the ifs above, and if Gardner hadn’t thrown that interception and instead Michigan scored, it could have been 17-13 and we would have had a ball game. But again, if there are that many ifs in a game, you’re not going to win, especially on the road against a good opponent.

The numbers game

365: Michigan’s consecutive games without being shutout, dating back to Oct. 20, 1984, prior to last Saturday’s 31-0 loss at Notre Dame

24-17-1: Michigan’s all-time record against Notre Dame

172: The number of passes Devin Gardner had thrown since his last interception on Nov. 3, 2013 against Michigan State

9: Devin Gardner’s rank on Michigan’s career completions list, passing Steve Smith

Drive Chart
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM
ND
UM

 

*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half

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