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Posts Tagged ‘Donovan Peoples-Jones’

#9 Ohio State 31 – Michigan 20: QB play, missed opportunities doom Michigan in The Game

Saturday, November 25th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan’s offense took the field with 2:47 remaining and a chance to go win the ball game. Instead, John O’Korn dropped back to pass and heaved the ball downfield to a wide open Ohio State safety. With two open receivers on the play, the fifth-year senior misread the coverage, according to Jim Harbaugh after the game, and Michigan fell for the fourth time this season and the sixth straight time to rival Ohio State, 31-20.

The sequence of events perfectly summed up the entire game as Michigan often took a step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, and two more steps back. The game plan was good enough to win but the quarterback play wasn’t. It’s as simple as that.

Final Stats
Michigan  Ohio State
Score 20 31
Record 8-4 (5-4) 10-2 (8-1)
Total Yards 295 350
Net Rushing Yards 100 226
Net Passing Yards 195 124
First Downs 16 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 6-50 9-75
Punts-Yards 7-288 6-270
Time of Possession 28:43 31:17
Third Down Conversions 9-of-17 8-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-13 5-43
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-2
PATs 2-for-3 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Full Box Score

O’Korn loves the University of Michigan and has poured his heart and soul into it. He has been heavily involved off the field, paying visits to U of M Mott’s Children’s Hospital and befriending superfan Larry Prout Jr. For all of those things, he’s the model Michigan Man and deserves to be commended. But he simply wasn’t good enough on Saturday, and when you play big-time college football you have to accept due criticism as well.

Michigan got the ball first, but was forced to punt. After the defense forced an Ohio State punt, the offense went to work, driving 77 yards on 13 plays for the game’s first touchdown. To his credit, O’Korn made some nice throws, including a 27-yard strike to Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-8 to set up the opening score.

At the end of the first quarter, facing a 4th-and-20, Urban Meyer called timeout to allow his punter to kick with the wind instead of letting the quarter run out. Donovan Peoples-Jones made him pay, returning the punt 42 yards to the Ohio State 11-yard line. An Ohio State holding penalty moved it to the six. Two plays later, O’Korn found tight end Sean McKeon in the end zone to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

But Ohio State answered, mounting an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of its own on the ensuing possession. However, Michigan had a great chance to continue its momentum when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett overthrew his receiver right into the hands of safety Josh Metellus. But he couldn’t hold on and Barrett made him pay with a 21-yard touchdown scamper on the next play to pull OSU within 14-7.

After a Michigan punt that gave Ohio State the ball near midfield, the Buckeyes evened the score with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to tight end Marcus Baugh. The teams went into the half knotted at 14.

Ohio State began the third quarter with possession, but Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out, gaining the field position edge that resulted in a go-ahead score two drives later. Starting at their own 49, O’Korn hit Kekoa Crawford in the flat, who raced 43 yards to the Ohio State 8-yard line. Three plays later, Karan Higdon scored from two yards out, but Quinn Nordin’s extra point attempt was blocked, putting Michigan ahead 20-14 midway through the third.

As has been the case much of the season, Michigan’s stout defense surrendered a score following an offensive score, allowing Ohio State to drive 78 yards on 11 plays. Midway through the drive, Barrett went down with a leg injury and was replaced by Dwayne Haskins, who made two big plays. First, he connected with receiver Austin Mack for a 27-yard gain on 3rd-and-13. Mack held onto the ball despite a vicious hit by Tyree Kinnel that left Kinnel injured with a likely concussion. Two plays later, he evaded a rushing Maurice Hurst and galloped 22 yards to the 1-yard line. J.K. Dobbins finished the job to put the Buckeyes ahead 21-20.

Michigan’s offense failed to get anything going the rest of the way as O’Korn was sacked four times and threw the game-ending interception. Ohio State added a 44-yard field goal and a 25-yard Mike Weber touchdown run in garbage time to expand the margin of victory.

For the game, Michigan rushed for 100 yards and passed for 195, essentially equaling the total yardage Ohio State’s defense allows per game. O’Korn completed 17-of-32 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown, and the interception. Chris Evans amassed 101 total yards, rushing for 67 on 6.1 yards per carry and catching five passes for 34 yards, to lead the team in both rushing and receptions. Higdon added 55 yards on 5.1 yards per carry, while Crawford led the team with 57 receiving yards.

Defensively, Michigan held Ohio State to 350 total yards — 200 below their season average — and just 124 yards through the air. Barrett completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Haskins completed 6-of-7 for 94. Dobbins topped the century mark with 101 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry, while Weber added 67 on 4.5.

Michigan finishes the regular season with an 8-4 record overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play, while Ohio State improves to 10-2 and 8-1 and will face undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game next Saturday in Indianapolis. Michigan will await its bowl fate following next weekend’s conference championship games. Most signs are pointing toward the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec .28 with the Wolverines facing either Harbaugh’s former team (Stanford) or Michigan’s former coach, Rich Rodriguez’s new team (Arizona).

Game Ball – Offense

Chris Evans (11 carries for 67 yards, 5 receptions for 34 yards)
It was apparent from the outset that Evans was playing determined football, fighting through tackles and gaining extra yards on Michigan’s first few possessions. On Michigan’s first touchdown drive, he had runs of nine yards and 24 yards and also a 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-11. On Michigan’s next possession, he converted a 3rd-and-4 with a 5-yard catch. He finished the game with three explosive runs (of 10 yards or more) and three of Michigan’s nine third-down conversions. It was his third game ball in Michigan’s final four weeks.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None
Week 8 — Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 9 — Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns)
Week 10 — Chris Evans (15 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 29 yards)
Week 11 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (4 receptions for 64 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Rashan Gary (10 tackles — 5 solo — 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
The old sports adage is that great players rise to the occasion in big games. Michigan’s star sophomore defensive end, Rashan Gary, did just that. He has been unfairly criticized at times this season for not posting gaudy numbers while taking on double teams and allowing others to make plays. Today, he was a force from the start. He sacked Barrett for a three yard loss on Ohio State’s second possession and again on OSU’s second possession of the second half, that time for a loss of six on 3rd-and-5 to force a punt. Then, when Michigan needed to get the ball back for a chance to win, he stuffed Weber for a loss of two on 3rd-and-1, setting up a 43-yard field goal, which the Buckeyes missed. To make the performance even more impressive, Gary injured his shoulder in the first half — some reports said he dislocated it but popped it back in and continued playing. It was an inspiring performance by the star of Michigan’s defense.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Week 8 — Maurice Hurst (8 tacles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 10 — 4 tackles — 3 solo — 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 80 yards)
Week 11 — Khaleke Hudson — 9 tackles — 3 solo — 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry)

#17 Michigan 27 – Indiana 20 (OT): Michigan survives overtime scare in Bloomington on Higdon’s big day

Saturday, October 14th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

It wasn’t pretty, and the offensive struggles were still evident, but Michigan bounced back from its loss to Michigan State with a 27-20 overtime victory at Indiana.

The Michigan defense gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter — the first they’ve allowed all season — to send the game into overtime, but it held strong in the first overtime period to secure the win.

Michigan began the game as if it would make an easy go of it, scoring on each of its first three possessions and blocking an Indiana field goal to take a 13-0 lead.

Final Stats
Michigan  Indiana
Score 27 20
Record 5-1 (2-1) 3-3 (0-3)
Total Yards 329 278
Net Rushing Yards 271 80
Net Passing Yards 58 198
First Downs 17 14
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 16-141 5-55
Punts-Yards 9-367 8-354
Time of Possession 35:09 24:51
Third Down Conversions 2-of-13 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-20 0-0
Field Goals 2-for-2 2-for-3
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 3-of-4
Red Zone TDs-Chances 1-of-3 2-of-4
Full Box Score

The first drive went 49 yards in 13 plays, taking up 6:35 and ended in a 40-yard Quinn Nordin field goal. Indiana responded with a 12-play, 54-yard drive, but Maurice Hurst blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt and Lavert Hill returned it 35 yards to the Indiana 27-yard line. Michigan’s offense couldn’t go anywhere and had to settle for a 38-yard field goal. After forcing an Indiana three-and-out, the offense finally found the end zone when Karan Higdon carried it in from 12 yards out to cap an 80-yard drive.

But Michigan’s offense would stall from there and Indiana kicked a 32-yard field goal of its own just before the half.

The second half started as poorly as possible as Michigan went three-and-out on its opening possession and Indiana marched right down the field for a a touchdown to pull within 13-10.

Neither team could muster any offense the rest of the third quarter, combining for just 39 yards on 24 plays from there on. In fact, aside from a 7-play, 30-yard possession for Michigan following IU’s touchdown, the two teams combined for seven straight three-and-outs.

Michigan broke the stalemate when Higdon broke free through the middle and raced 59 yards for a touchdown to widen Michigan’s lead to 20-10 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Yet again, the two teams traded three-and-outs, and then Hill came up big with an interception to give Michigan a chance to seal the win. But the offense wouldn’t make it easy, punting away to J-Shun Harris, who showed why he leads the Big Ten in punt returns this season, taking it back 53 yards to the Michigan 20. Indiana converted six plays later with a 8-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Ramsey to Whop Philyor with 3:27 remaining.

Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs recovered the ensuing onside kick, but it was overturned as he didn’t have complete control prior to stepping out of bounds. What has become a familiar refrain during the Jim Harbaugh tenure, Michigan’s offense couldn’t pick up a first down to end the game, settling for a punt, which resulted in a touchback, and a holding call advanced the ball to the 30, meaning the punt only changed the field position by 15 yards.

With no timeouts, the ball at their own 30-yard line, and 1:05 remaining, Indiana completed passes of nine yards and 24 yards to the edge of field goal range. A false start backed them up five yards, but Ramsey found Cobbs for 14 yard and the Hoosiers were able to nail a 46-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime.

Michigan lost the coin toss, but wasted no time on its first possession. Higdon took a handoff from John O’Korn, ran into congestion in the middle of the field, and bounced outside to his left. He turned the corner and raced to the end zone to give Michigan a 27-20 lead.

Indiana got a pass interference call on David Long on its first play to move the ball to the Michigan 12, then back to back runs gave the Hoosiers 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Rashan Gary stopped Morgan Ellison for a 2-yard loss on first down, then Ramsey threw an incomplete pass on second. Ramsey tried to run it himself on 3rd-and-goal from the three, but Gary and Noah Furbush stopped him for a loss of one. On 4th-and-goal, Ramsey rolled out to his left, and with Chase Winovich bearing down on him, lobbed the ball into the end zone, but Tyree Kinnel picked it off to end the game.

Michigan rushed for 270 yards on 6.2 yards per carry while holding Indiana to just 80 yards on the ground. Higdon became the first Michigan running back to top 200 yards rushing since Mike Hart in 2007. Higdon totaled 200 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, averaging eight yards per carry. O’Korn managed just 58 yards on 10-of-20 passing and didn’t throw for a touchdown or an interception. Donovan Peoples-Jones led the Wolverines with four receptions for 34 yards.

Defensively, Devin Bush led Michigan with eight tackles, but Gary had his best game of the season statistically with seven tackles, 2.5 for loss, one sack, and two quarterback hurries. Hurst and Long each added half a sack.

Now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan travels to State College next Saturday for a primetime showdown with Penn State. ESPN’s College GameDay has announced that it will be broadcasting live from Happy Valley, and with Clemson’s loss to Syracuse on Friday night, the Nittany Lions will likely move up to No. 2 nationally behind Alabama.

Game Ball – Offense

Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Last week against Michigan State, Higdon was the lone bright spot offensively, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and totaling 98 yards from scrimmage. He was inexplicably given just 12 carries despite consistently gaining yards. This week, he continued that momentum, cementing his spot as Michigan’s featured back with a 200-yard, three-touchdown performance. His 59-yard touchdown run put Michigan ahead by 10 points in the fourth quarter, and then his vision to bounce outside from what should have been a tackle for loss on the first play of overtime resulted in a 25-yard touchdown run. Eight of his 25 rushes were categorized as big plays (10 yards or more) against a defense allowing just 4.2 explosive runs per game.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Rashan Gary has taken some criticism this season for his perceived lack of production — just one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss entering the Indiana game. But the coaching staff and those who know have raved about his play, noting that he has constantly been drawing double-teams, which frees up other players to make plays. On Saturday in Bloomington, he finally got to show his production, adding a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in addition to two quarterback hurries. His play was most apparent when the defense had its back up against the wall in overtime as he tackled Ellison for a loss of two on 1st-and-goal from the one and stopped Ramsey for a loss of one on 3rd-and-goal.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)

The numbers game: U-M offense lagging behind 2016 big play pace but defense allowing fewer

Thursday, September 21st, 2017


(Kaitlyn Cole)

Michigan’s offense has struggled at times early in the 2017 season, especially when it comes to red zone touchdowns. But it has been able to move the ball fairly well. The defense has been a pleasant surprise after losing 10 starters to the NFL. Now, a fourth of the way through the season, let’s start taking a look at how the Wolverines stack up in terms of explosive plays on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Michigan is averaging 9.33 explosive plays (runs of 10 or more yards and passes of 20 or more). Of those 28 explosive plays, 17 have been rushing plays and 11 have been passing plays. Here’s how that compares to the past two seasons through three games:

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – First three weeks comparison, 2017 vs past two seasons
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 17 11 28 13.59% 4.75% 13
2016 20 16 36 16.98% 6.72% 18
2015 10 8 18 8.57% -0.62% -1

The Wolverines currently rank 78th nationally in most total plays of at least 10 yards, 48th in rushing plays of at least 10 yards and 38th in passing plays of at least 20 yards.

Ty Isaac is leading the way with 10 plays of at least 10 yards, which ranks 17th in the country. He also has five plays of at least 20 yards, which ranks sixth in the nation. Chris Evans is second on the team with four rushes of at least 10 yards. Tarik Black leads the way in the passing game with three receptions of at least 20 yards, averaging 35.7 yards apiece. Isaac’s big runs have averaged 24 yards and that number would be higher if not for two touchdowns called back against Air Force. Among players with at least two big plays, Donovan Peoples-Jones leads the Wolverines with an average of 40.5 yards per (a 44-yard run and a 37-yards reception).

To put Michigan’s current pace in perspective, last year’s team averaged 12 explosive plays per game through the first three games of the season. While this year’s offense has looked stagnant at times, the addition of faster and more athletic players has improved Michigan’s overall potential for big-plays, and it’s still far better than Jim Harbaugh’s first season, which averaged just six explosive plays a game through the first three.

For example, the majority of last season’s carries went to De’Veon Smith, who was more of a bruiser than a home run threat. He led the team with 22 explosive runs in all of 2016. With Isaac and even Chris Evans taking over those carries, there’s far more potential to turn the corner around the edge and pick up first downs on first and second down.

Michigan’s big play leaders through 3 games
Name # Big Runs # Big Rec. Total Average Gain (Yds) Big Play %
Ty Isaac 10 0 10 24.0 21.28%
Chris Evans 4 0 4 15.5 12.12%
Tarik Black 0 3 3 35.7 27.27%
Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 1 2 40.5 66.67%
Zach Gentry 0 2 2 33.0 66.67%
Kekoa Crawford 0 2 2 31.5 40.00%
Grant Perry 0 2 2 30.5 20.00%
Karan Higdon 2 0 2 24.0 8.70%
Nick Eubanks 0 1 1 48.0 50.00%

From the wide receiver position, Michigan replaced veterans with superior athletes such as Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Kekoa Crawford, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin. Black is now out for the season, but Peoples-Jones and Crawford have already racked up four explosive plays in limited playing time, and the other two will likely take on larger roles going forward.

Even Eddie McDoom should add to Michigan’s big-play potential. He’s only caught two passes and received two carries through three games, but he’s sure to get more touches with Black out of the offense.

So despite averaging about 2.5 fewer explosive plays per game at this point, I think the offense will become more explosive by the end of the year as the young players grow more comfortable in the offense. Michigan also hasn’t played Rutgers yet, which is an opportunity to rack up dozens of big plays, so the year-to-year stats haven’t exactly evened out yet.

On defense, Michigan is about as good as it gets in terms of shutting down big plays. Among teams that have played three games this season, only Auburn has allowed fewer plays of at least 10 yards. Here’s how the defense stacks up to the past two seasons through the first three games:

Defensive big plays
Michigan defense – 2017 average to date vs past 2 seasons
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 2.67 2.67 5.33 8.84% 4.75% 13
2016 5.00 1.67 6.67 10.26% 6.72% 18
2015 4.33 1.33 5.67 9.19% -0.62% -1

The Wolverines have allowed 16 total explosive plays (eight run and eight pass), and surprisingly, 11 of those have gone for at least 20 yards. Don Brown’s defense has mastered the art of dropping opponents for negative plays, but when the blitzes don’t get to the quarterback, the defense is susceptible to big plays.

Michigan also has an extremely young secondary, made up of three true sophomores and a junior – all of which are first-year starters. While all four are solid playmakers, they’ve also made a few mistakes as a result of their inexperience, so that explains many of the big plays allowed.

Michigan ranked 13th among teams that have played three games in terms of big rushing plays allowed, and only 14 teams have allowed fewer long passing plays. Through the first three games, Michigan’s defense is actually allowing explosive plays at a lower clip than last year’s vaunted defense did — about one and one-third fewer per game. This year’s defense has given up one more long pass per game to date, but has yielded just eight long runs compared to 15 at this point in 2016.

Obviously, it’s no surprise that Michigan’s defense has been more effective than the offense in terms of big plays. That has been reflected in the overall production, as well.

Michigan’s 2017 big play scoring percentage
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Offense 17 12 70.59%*
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Defense 14 6 42.86%*
*A drive with a big play typically yields points 75% of the time per recent NFL study

The defensive line is critical to shutting down big running plays, as running backs rarely get to the second level without contact. Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary have done a nice job setting the edge and stopping ball carriers from getting outside.

When opponents do rush outside, or on screen plays, Michigan’s athleticism at linebacker stops most plays before 10 yards. Devin Bush has led the charge for the most part, but Khaleke Hudson has also been critical in this regard.

Overall, Michigan hasn’t been outstanding on offense, so it seems about right that it ranks in the lower half of the FBS in total big plays thus far. The defense, however, is among the absolute best in every category, which also matches what our eyes have told us.

This week, Michigan hits the road for its first true road game of the season against an upstart Purdue Boilermakers squad. Here’s how the Wolverines and Boilermakers stack up so far.

Next opponent
Michigan offense vs Purdue defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 17 11 28 13.59% 4.75% 13
PU Def. 13 11 24 12.12% 0.92% 9
Purdue offense vs Michigan defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
PU Off. 17 13 30 13.04% 0.92% 9
UM Def. 8 8 16 8.84% 4.75% 13

Purdue’s offense has been one of the surprises of college football under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm. Through the first three games of the season it has churned out two more explosive plays than Michigan’s offense has (both passes), although it has done so at a slightly lower rate, having run 24 more plays than the Wolverines. The Boilermakers are averaging 10 explosive plays per game (5.7 runs and 4.3 runs).

Defensively, they’re not quite as good, allowing seven explosive plays per game. They’ve given up 13 explosive runs (4.3 per game), which ranks 67th nationally, and 11 explosive passes (3.67 per game) which ranks 94th. They’ve also given up 33 passes of at least 10 yards, which ranks 103rd nationally. By comparison, Michigan’s defense has given up just 12.

We’ll have another breakdown of the big plays next week after Michigan takes on Purdue in the young team’s first road test.

#7 Michigan 29 – Air Force 13: Special teams save the day while offense sputters in red zone

Sunday, September 17th, 2017


(Dustin Johnson)

Last week, Michigan played ugly but still beat Cincinnati by 22 points, leaving fans wondering if it was simply a letdown after a big season-opening win over Florida or a sign of things to com. This Saturday, Michigan picked up an ugly 29-13 win over Air Force.

Michigan looked like it would take command early on as Ty Isaac took the fourth play of the game 62 yards for a touchdown. But it was called back as his foot touched the sideline at the Air Force 30. Instead, Michigan had to settle for three points as the offense stalled at the 17-yard line and Quinn Nordin kicked a 35-yard field goal.

The opening drive was emblematic of the way the rest of the game would go: the offense moving the ball but sputtering in the red zone and settling for three instead of six.

Final Stats
Michigan  Air Force
Score 29 13
Record 3-0 1-1
Total Yards 359 232
Net Rushing Yards 190 168
Net Passing Yards 169 64
First Downs 17 15
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 7-72 3-29
Punts-Yards 3-111 6-231
Time of Possession 29:35 30:25
Third Down Conversions 5-of-14 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 3-27 2-11
Field Goals 5-for-5 2-for-3
PATs 2-for-2 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 1-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 0-of-4 0-of-2
Full Box Score

After forcing an Air Force punt, Michigan gave the ball right back when Chris Evans fumbled and the Falcons recovered at the Michigan 44. Air Force capitalized with a field goal to tie the game at three. That drive was also symbolic of the way the rest of the game would go as Air Force ran 12 plays but advanced just 24 yards.

Michigan settled for another field goal on its first possession of the second quarter, driving 77 yards in eight plays before stalling at the Air Force 8-yard line. Air Force answered with a 50-yard field goal and Michigan closed the half with a 49-yard field goal to take a 9-6 lead.

Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half and freshman receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones scored the first touchdown of the game, taking the punt 79 yards to the end zone for the longest punt return since Steve Breaston went 83 yards against Indiana in 2006.

But the breathing room wouldn’t last long as Air Force threw its first pass of the game and receiver Ronald Cleveland beat safety Tyree Kinnel for a 64 yard touchdown.

Both offenses went three-and-out on their next possessions before Michigan got on the board once again with another field goal after the offense stalled in the red zone. This time, Nordin converted from 29 yards.

The Michigan defense forced another three-and-out, and two plays later, Isaac reeled off another big touchdown run, but again it was called back, this time for a questionable holding on Kekoa Crawford. Michigan settled for another Nordin field goal, this time from 36 yards out to take a 22-13 lead.

Air Force refused to back down, however, putting together a 16-play drive that used nearly seven minutes of the clock and got to the Michigan 5-yard line. But the Michigan defense held strong, forcing a 29-yard field goal attempt that was missed.

Michigan finally scored its first and only offensive touchdown of the game when Karan Higdon scampered around the left side for a 36-yard touchdown run to reach the final score of 29-13.

Michigan’s offense compiled 359 total yards, 190 on the ground and 169 through the air while the defense held Air Force to its lowest yardage total since 2012 (232 yards).

Wilton Speight completed 14-of-23 passes for 169 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass or an interception. Isaac led Michigan on the ground for the third time in three games, finishing with 89 yards on 5.6 yards per carry. Higdon added 64 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while Evans got just six carries for 30 yards and the fumble. Tarik Black led Michigan in receiving with five receptions for 55 yards, while Peoples-Jones caught two for 52. Nordin tied a program record with five field goals in the game, joining K.C. Lopata (Nov. 8, 2009), J.D Carlson (Nov. 10, 1990), and Mike Gillette (Nov. 5, 1988) as the only Wolverines to do so.

Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman completed 1-of-7 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 60 yards. Running back Tim McVey managed just 62 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, well below his career average of 8.4 yards per carry.

Michigan hits the road for the first time this season next Saturday at Purdue. The game will kick off at 4pm EST and be televised by FOX.

Game Ball – Offense

Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
For the third week in a row, Ty Isaac could have gotten the game ball, and if his two touchdown runs wouldn’t have been called back he most certainly would have this week. But I’m going with Peoples-Jones because his third-quarter punt return began the second half with a statement, putting Michigan ahead by two scores and ultimately sealing the game. The true freshman has been a major weapon in the punt return game in the early season. He also gained 52 yards on a pair of receptions.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)

Game Ball – Defense

Chase Winovich (9 tackles — 3 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Devin Bush could have gotten the nod here as he was seemingly all over the field, playing a huge role in slowing down the Air Force triple option running game. But I’m going to split hairs and pick Chase Winovich because he recorded a sack and a half on just seven Air Force pass attempts. He also recorded nine tackles and a quarterback hurry.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)

What can Michigan expect from Peoples-Jones? History is kind to nation’s top receivers — except at USC

Friday, December 16th, 2016


(Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan reeled in five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, adding to an already impressive recruiting class. The Detroit Cass Tech star is the third receiver in the class but he’s also the highest-rated as the nation’s top receiver according to 247 Sports. So what can Michigan fans expect from Peoples-Jones in the maize and blue? A look at the history of the nation’s No. 1 wideout gives a lot of reason for excitement.

More than any other position on the field, receivers tend to produce the earliest when they arrive on campus. In a simplistic view, the position — more than any other — relies more on athleticism than a need to learn at the college level. Of course, route running, technique, strength, and a connection with the quarterback are important traits that can be developed in college, but an uber athletic receiver with good size and speed can produce right away.

Since 2000, the No. 1 receivers in the nation according to 247 Sports have produced an average of 34 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in their first season of action. By comparison, as a senior, Jehu Chesson caught 31 passes for 467 yards and two scores as a senior this season (with a bowl game yet to play). That means that if Peoples-Jones performs just average as a true freshman compared to the past 17 No. 1 receivers, he would have been the third-leading receiver on Michigan’s roster this season. It gets better.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – by year
Freshman Season College Career
Year Name School Rec Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs
2016 Demetris Robertson Cal 50 767 7 50* 767* 7*
2015 Calvin Ridley Alabama 89 1,045 7 155* 1,772* 14*
2014 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 46 583 5 88* 1,134* 9*
2013 Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 72 608 5 202 2,393 21
2012 Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 28 395 5 87 1,278 17
2011 George Farmer USC 4 42 0 30 363 4
2010 Kyle Prater USC 1^ 6^ 0^ 71 654 2
2009 Rueben Randle LSU 11 173 2 97 1,634 13
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4 179 2,653 15
2007 Terrence Toliver LSU 10 249 3 126 1,820 12
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2 133 1,929 13
2005 Patrick Turner USC 12 170 2 138 1,752 17
2004 Early Doucet LSU 18 257 2 160 1,943 20
2003 Whitney Lewis USC 3 16 0 3 16 0
2002 Ryan Moore Miami 44 637 3 49 800 8
2001 Roscoe Crosby Clemson 23 396 3 23 396 3
2000 Charles Rogers Michigan State 67! 1,470! 14! 135 2,821 27
*Still in college
^Redshirted freshman season (redshirted due to injury)
! Sophomore season (academically ineligible for freshman season)

An anomaly among the previous 17 top receivers in the nation has been those who committed to Southern Cal. Four of them — George Farmer in 2011, Kyle Prater in 2010, Patrick Turner in 2005, and Whitney Lewis in 2003 — performed well below average. Those four averaged just five receptions for 58.5 yards and half a touchdown.

Farmer switched to running back, tore his ACL and MCL his sophomore season, and finished his career with just 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Prater redshirted as a freshman due to nagging injuries and then transferred to Northwestern. He had originally committed to Pete Carroll, but didn’t stick it out with Lane Kiffin. Turner had the best freshman season of any of the four, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and went on to a decent career and a third-round draft pick. Lewis — like Farmer — was switched to running back for most of his freshman season before moving back to receiver where he caught just three passes for 16 yards. He sat out his sophomore season while academically ineligible and didn’t catch another pass in his career.

With four of the five worst freshman seasons among the last 16 No. 1 receivers nationally coming from USC — the other was LSU’s Rueben Randle, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman –, it’s worth looking at the freshman year production average without the USC guys. If they had all not been from one school, we couldn’t do this. But when it’s isolated to one program, we can reasonably assume that it’s more of a reflection of the program than the player.

The 13 non-USC commits averaged 42 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns as freshmen. A performance like that would have been very similar to Jake Butt’s 43 receptions for 518 yards and four scores.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – averages
Receptions Yards Touchdowns
All 17 34 480 4
Jehu Chesson 2016 31 467 2
Minus USC commits 42 610 5
Jake Butt 2016 43 518 4

Three of the 17 No. 1 receivers since 2000 would have been Michigan’s leading receiver this season — Julio Jones, who caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama in 2008; Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven scores for the Crimson Tide last season; and Charles Rogers, who caught 67 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2001. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Demetris Robertson, had very similar numbers to Michigan’s leading receiver, Amara Darboh, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns for California this fall.

Beyond just the freshman season, the nation’s No. 1 receivers have largely had outstanding college careers. Most of them didn’t stay all four years, but they averaged 102 catches for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns over their careers. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers turned in a two-year total of 2,821 yards, which would rank third in Michigan career receiving history. Jones’ 2,653 in three seasons would rank fifth and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell’s 2,393 in three years would also rank fifth. Keep in mind that Michigan’s top four — Braylon Edwards, Anthony Carter, Jeremy Gallon, and Amani Toomer — all played all four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Of the 14 who are no longer in college, eight were drafted by the NFL — all in the top three rounds and four in the first round. Seven of them are still in the league.

Before Peoples-Jones’ commitment, the highest rated receiver Michigan had ever landed was Mario Manningham, who was the nation’s sixth-best receiver in the 2005 class. He turned in a 27-catch, 433-yard, six-touchdown freshman performance and ranks sixth in Michigan’s career receiving books.

Michigan’s top 10 receiver commitments in recruiting ranking era
Year Name Position Rank National Rank
2017 Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 11
2005 Mario Manningham 6 50
2001 Tim Massaquoi 7 47
2014 Drake Harris 7 67
2005 Antonio Bass 8 56
2008 Darryl Stonum 10 48
2004 Doug Dutch 10 71
2009 Je’Ron Stokes 10 90
2007 Toney Clemons 12 96
2002 Jason Avant 13 117

If recent history holds true, Michigan fans can expect a productive year from Peoples-Jones next fall and a solid career. He also comes in at the right time with the Wolverines losing their top three pass catchers to graduation. Jim Harbaugh has shown that he’s willing to play true freshman receivers as Grant Perry caught 14 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown in 2015 and Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom combined for 9 catches for 106 yards and one score this fall, in addition to McDoom’s success on jet sweeps. The roster is certainly wide open for a go-to outside receiver and Peoples-Jones seems primed to fill that spot.

A high ranking doesn’t always guarantee success, and some of the best receivers in Michigan history weren’t ranked highly, but the recent history of the nation’s top receivers are good news for Michigan fans.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Thursday, December 15th, 2016


(Brandon Brown)

Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR | 6-2, 193 | Detroit, Mich. (Cass Technical)
ESPN4-star, #4 WR Rivals: 5-star, #2 WR 247: 5-star, #1WR Scout: 5-star, #4 WR
247 Composite: 5-star #1 WR
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC

Yesterday, Michigan pulled in four-star receiver Tarik Black of Cheshire, Conn. Today, Jim Harbaugh bolstered his receiving corps even further with a commitment from the top receiver in the country, Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Detroit Cass Tech star pledged his commitment to the Wolverines live on ESPN2 on Thursday evening.

Peoples-Jones is a five-star according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and a four-star according to ESPN. Scout ranks him as the top receiver in the country, Rivals second, and Scout and ESPN fourth. All four have him among the top 32 overall players in the nation with 247 ranking him the highest at eighth. Rivals ranks him 13th, ESPN 27th, and Scout 32nd. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the top receiver and the 11th-best overall player in the 2017 class.

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound receiver committed to Michigan over a top five that also included rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, Orange Bowl foe Florida State, and 2017 season-opening opponent Florida. He also held offers from most of the other national powers, including Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC, and Stanford, to name a few.

Scout lists Peoples-Jones’ strengths as body control, elusiveness with catch, and speed, while listing his area to improve as strength. Scout’s Allen Trieu raves about his potential.

“Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.”

Peoples-Jones joins Black and Brad Hawkins as receivers that will head to Ann Arbor in 2017. He’s the 22nd player in the class and the 10th on the offensive side. He doesn’t have quite the size of Black, but there’s a reason he’s rated higher across the board. While Black projects to be more of a possession receiver, Peoples-Jones has a chance to be a star go-to receiver. Together, they form a great receiving haul that will challenge for playing time after the loss of seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

With two in the fold this week, Michigan will hope for more good news when five-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson announces his commitment at noon Eastern tomorrow.