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Posts Tagged ‘Karan Higdon’

Michigan 35 – Maryland 10: Michigan jumps out early, cruises to 25-point win

Sunday, November 12th, 2017


(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

It wasn’t pretty and it teetered on the edge of too close for comfort in the third quarter, but Michigan still pulled out a 25-point road victory on Saturday afternoon, topping Maryland 35-10.

From the outset, Michigan appeared to be in total control, scoring touchdowns on three of their first five possessions to take a 28-0 second quarter lead. But after a missed 31-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin just before the half, Michigan fell into a funk that lasted well into the second half as Maryland pulled within 28-10. That was as close as they would get, however, as Michigan added a fourth quarter touchdown to put the game away.

Maryland native Henry Poggi got the scoring started with a 2-yard touchdown run on Michigan’s second possession of the game, capping a 9-play, 67-yard drive. Two possessions later, Michigan took control at their own 34 and Brandon Peters found Karan Higdon for a 35-yard screen play. A roughing the passer penalty tacked on an additional 15 yards and Chris Evans did the rest of the work with three straight 5-yard carries followed by a 1-yard touchdown run.

Final Stats
Michigan  Maryland
Score 35 10
Record 8-2 (5-2) 4-6 (2-5)
Total Yards 305 340
Net Rushing Yards 160 180
Net Passing Yards 145 160
First Downs 16 15
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 1-10 7-59
Punts-Yards 5-212 5-152
Time of Possession 27:38 32:22
Third Down Conversions 4-of-11 3-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 3-of-4
Sacks By-Yards 1-6 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-1 1-for-2
PATs 5-for-5 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-6 2-of-3
Red Zone TDs-Chances 4-of-6 1-of-3
Full Box Score

Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out, but instead of punting, Maryland tried a fake punt that gained just three of the needed seven yards, giving the Wolverines possession at the Maryland 33-yard line. Peters connected with tight end Zach Gentry on the first play for a 33-yard touchdown, putting Michigan ahead 21-0.

Once again Michigan’s defense shut down the Maryland offense, but this time Josh Metellus blocked it and Devin Gil recovered at the Maryland 19-yard line. A 16-yard Higdon run put Michigan at the three and Peters hit his other tight end, Sean McKeon, for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

Trailing 28-0, Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell reached into his bag of tricks to put together a promising drive that covered 69 yards on 11 plays and got to the Michigan 9-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 10, David Long intercepted quarterback Ryan Brand and returned it 80 yards to the Maryland 20. But the Michigan offense went three-and-out, and Quinn Nordin pushed a 31-yard field goal right.

At the half, Michigan had held Maryland’s offense to just 97 yards on 37 plays. Maybe it was because the game was well in hand against an inferior opponent or maybe it was a case of a young team losing focus on the road, but Michigan seemed to come out flat in the second half and nearly let the Terrapins back into the game.

On Maryland’s second possession of the half, they got into Michigan territory, but missed a 43-yard field goal. On their next possession, they drive 85 yards on 11 plays and got to the Michigan 1-yard line before settling for a 20-yard field goal. On their next possession, they went 75 yards on 11 plays and finally found the end zone with a Brand-to-Taivon Jacobs touchdown pass.

In the first 20 minutes of the second half, Maryland had outgained Michigan 218 yards to just 21. Michigan’s three third-quarter possessions went three plays for four yards and a punt, four plays for 15 yards and a punt, and three plays for two yards and a punt.

But Michigan found success with their first possession of the fourth quarter, driving 65 yards in eight plays, capped off by a 17-yard Chris Evans touchdown run to reach the final score of 35-10. Last week’s defensive star, Khaleke Hudson, ended Maryland’s hopes of any type of comeback by picking off Brand and returning it 22 yards to the Maryland 19 and Michigan’s offense ran out the clock.

A pure look at the box score without seeing the final score would suggest a closely-fought game as Maryland outgained Michigan 340 to 305 and held the ball for 32:22 to Michigan’s 27:38. But Michigan was in control from the beginning, utilizing great field position to jump out to a 28-0 lead before letting off the gas. The Wolverines’ average starting field position in the first half was their own 49-yard line, meaning that they didn’t have to go far to score.

Peters went 9-of-18 for 145 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, for the third consecutive game, he didn’t turn the ball over. He also didn’t get sacked. Evans led the way on the ground with 90 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, while Higdon gained 50 yards on 5.0 yards per carry before going out in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Gentry led Michigan through the air with three receptions for 63 yards and a score, while Higdon added another 48 receiving yards.

Defensively, Tyree Kinnel led the team with 10 tackles. Maurice Hurst was close behind with nine and also tallied Michigan’s lone sack on the day. Chase Winovich added three tackles for loss while Hudson and Long each had an interception.

Now 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play, Michigan travels to Madison, Wisc. for a showdown with the unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers next Saturday. Wisconsin will likely be ranked in the top five nationally when Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings are released and ESPN’s College GameDay has already announced that it will be broadcasting live from Madison. Like last month in State College, it’s a great opportunity for Michigan to secure a big win, but it will take a much more complete effort that the Wolverines put forth this weekend.

Game Ball – Offense

Chris Evans (15 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 29 yards)
Evans earns his first solo game ball of the season after sharing it with Karan Higdon last week. He’s now the third different Michigan running back to earn a solo offensive game ball this season, joining Higdon (Week 5 and 6) and Ty Isaac (Week 2). Evans didn’t bust a long run like he did a week ago, but again displayed the shifty running style makes him hard to bring down in the open field, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns. In addition to 80 yards on the ground, he added 29 yards on two receptions including a 20-yarder. He totaled four explosive plays for the game, three on the ground and one through the air.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

David Long (4 tackles — 3 solo — 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 80 yards)
Long didn’t have the best stats in the box score, but made a big impact in the game. For starters, he picked off quarterback Ryan Brand and returned it 80 yards, nearly breaking Tom Harmon’s program record for longest interception return. But more than that, he shut down the Big Ten’s leading receiver, D.J. Moore, who came into the game averaging 91.1 yards and 6.6 receptions per game. Long held him to his second lowest output of the season with five receptions for just 37 yards.

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)

First Look: Maryland

Thursday, November 9th, 2017


(umterps.com)

Brandon Peters got the start of his career, but last Saturday was all about the running game and the defense. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans combined for 391 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Khaleke Hudson set a Michigan and Big Ten single-game record with eight tackles for loss, matching the NCAA record. The Wolverines will look to carry that momentum into College Park, Md. when they face Maryland this Saturday afternoon. Here’s a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Maryland & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
29.9 55th 27.1 73rd PPG 36.3 115th 17.1 11th
1,553 1,918 Rush Yds 1,573 923
172.6 56th 213.1 29th Rush/Gm 174.8 77th 102.6 7th
4.5 5.0 Rush Avg 4.5 3.0
1,480 1,507 Pass Yds 2,330 1,285
164.4 114th 167.4 111th Pass/Gm 258.9 104th 142.8 1st
3,033 3,425 Total Off. 3,903 2,208
337.0 112th 380.6 85th Total Off./Gm 433.7 101st 245.3 3rd
24.2 22nd 20.0 86th KR Avg 20.0 53rd 14.6 3rd
12.6 17th 8.2 57th PR Avg 11.7 108th 7.7 75th
27:27 108th 32:57 13th Avg TOP 32:33 27:03
32% 115th 33% 113th 3rd Down% 50% 127th 24% 3rd
24-124 108th 27-187 111th Sacks-Yds 15-75 88th 32-227 3rd
36 29 TDs 43 19
6-10 (60%) 14-18 (78%) FG-ATT 9-16 (56%) 7-11 (64%)
25-32 (78%) 97th 25-27 (93%) 13th Red Zone 32-37 (86%) 86th 17-20 (85%) 75th
20-32 (63%) 14-27 (52%)  RZ TD 28-37 (76%) 13-20 (65%)
2.39 48th 2.31 52nd OFEI/DFEI 2.82 107th 1.40 15th
26.8 73rd 28.6 58th S&P+ 29.7 88th 19.5 13th

If you thought Minnesota was bad last week, Maryland is even worse — statistically at least. Yes, Maryland beat Minnesota 31-24 to open Big Ten play, but they seem to have gotten worse as the season has progressed, dropping four of their last five and five of their last seven. The only wins in that span have come over Indiana (42-39) and Minnesota. Last week, they lost to Rutgers.

The offense is fairly similar to Michigan’s with a decent running game and virtually no passing game. It ranks 55th nationally in scoring (29.9 points per game), 56th in rushing (172.6 yards per game), 114th in passing (164.4 yards per game), and 112th in total offense (337.0 yards per game).

The Terrapins rushed for over 260 yards in three of their first four games, tallying 263 against Texas in the opener, 367 against Towson, and 262 against Minnesota. But UCF held them to just 42 yards on 37 carries in Week 2. Ohio State and Northwestern also held the Terps’ running game in check, combining for just 135 yards on 73 carries (1.8 yards per carry).

The passing game hasn’t topped 255 yards in a game all season and has failed to reach 175 yards in six of nine games. Against Ohio State, Maryland completed just 3-of-13 passes for 16 yards and it wasn’t because the running game was working so well. The Terps managed just 66 total yards that game.

Defensively, Maryland is one of the worst in college football. D.J. Durkin’s defense ranks 115th nationally in scoring (36.3 points per game), 77th against the run (174.8 yards per game), 104th against the pass (258.9 yards per game), and 101st in total defense (433.7 yards per game).

UCF, Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Rutgers all rushed for over 200 yards against Maryland. Three of those (UCF, OSU, and Wisconsin) have fairly similarly-ranked running games as Michigan, while Rutgers and Northwestern rank 62nd and 96th, respectively. Opponents are averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

The passing game is even worse. Much worse. Maryland is allowing almost twice as many passing yards per game as Michigan and that’s an improvement after holding Rutgers to 107 passing yards last Saturday, although “holding” may not be the right word as the Scarlet Knights threw just 18 passes and found plenty of success on the ground. Indiana passed for 410 yards and Ohio State for 303.

One of the big reasons Rutgers’ defense is so bad is that it hasn’t been able to get off the field on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of the time. They rank ahead of only Oregon State and Eastern Carolina in that category. By comparison, Michigan’s defense allows just a 24 percent conversion rate, meaning that they get off the field twice as often as Maryland’s defense does.

Another figure that bodes well for Michigan in this one is that Maryland has given up 24 sacks this season, an average of 2.7 per game. It’s three less than Michigan’s line has allowed and that’s good news for a Wolverine defense that ranks third nationally with 32 sacks. In the past two weeks, Michigan has faced offenses that entered that game allowing a total of 14 sacks all season, and the Wolverines got to the quarterbacks 10 times themselves — five each game.

Last week’s craziness with Iowa toppling Ohio State and Michigan State taking down Penn State brought an outside shot at at least a share of the Big Ten East title into play. With Wisconsin and Ohio State looming the next two weeks, Saturday’s game at Maryland is Michigan’s best shot at another win, so expect them to take full advantage of it.

Michigan 33 – Minnesota 10: Higdon, Evans run all over Gophers as Michigan retains Jug

Monday, November 6th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters got his first start, but he didn’t have to do much but hand the ball off as Karan Higdon and Chris Evans stole the show, rushing for 393 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-10 win over Minnesota.

Final Stats
Michigan  Minnesota
Score 33 10
Record 7-2 (4-2) 4-5 (1-4)
Total Yards 427 164
Net Rushing Yards 371 90
Net Passing Yards 56 74
First Downs 14 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 9-85 3-10
Punts-Yards 5-204 8-388
Time of Possession 27:35 32:25
Third Down Conversions 4-of-11 4-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-46 3-23
Field Goals 0-for-1 1-for-1
PATs 3-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 2-of-2 1-of-2
Full Box Score

Storms that swept through the Midwest postponed the start of the game, but in front of a mostly packed Big House Higdon and Evans gave Minnesota a dose of thunder and lightning. The pair became the first duo in Michigan history to rush for at least 191 yards in the same game and Higdon became the first Wolverine to top 200 yards in a game twice in a season since Mike Hart did so three times in 2004.

Higdon wasted no time getting the party started, taking Michigan’s second play of the game 47 yards to set up a 20-yard screen pass from Peters to tight end Sean McKeon for a touchdown. After a Minnesota touchdown, Higdon took the second play of Michigan’s second possession 77 yards for a touchdown.

Two drives later, Evans got in on the action with an 18-yard run followed by a 60-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 20-7.

It took Michigan a while to get going in the second half, but on their third possession of the third quarter, Higdon scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from five yards out to cap a 9-play, 46-yard drive.

The defense forced a three-and-out and Evans raced 67 yards on the first play of the ensuing possession for another touchdown.

The fourth quarter was all smooth sailing for the Wolverines and fourth-string quarterback Alex Malzone even got to lead a possession. Minnesota tacked on a garbage time field goal to reach the games’ final score of 33-10.

All told, Michigan rushed for 371 yards, sacks included, the second straight big rushing week for the Wolverines. They piled up 334 yards on the ground against Rutgers last week.

Higdon finished with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries (12.5 yards per carry), while Evans tallied 193 yards and two scores on 13 carries (14.7 yards per carry). Peters completed eight of 13 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. McKeon caught three passes for 30 yards and a score.

Defensively, Michigan held Minnesota to just 164 total yards, 90 on the ground and 74 through the air. But after having a little bit of success early on, the Gophers managed just 36 yards on 28 plays in the second half. Running back Rodney Smith, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in 2016, managed just 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Sophomore linebacker Khaleke Hudson led Michigan with 13 tackles (11 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a force fumble.

Next week, Michigan hits the road to face Maryland (4-5, 2-4) in a 12:30 kickoff on Big Ten Network.

Game Ball – Offense

Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns)
Higdon gets the nod for the third time this season after notching his second 200-yard rushing game of the season. The sophomore has established himself as the lead back in a crowded backfield the past few weeks, averaging 150.8 yards per game with eight touchdowns in the past month. He’s now fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, just 60 yards behind Saquon Barkley on 33 fewer carries, and ranks second in rushing touchdowns behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor.

Not to be outdone, Evans, who most assumed would be the breakout back this season after a promising freshman campaign, had his best game of the season, nearly matching Higdon’s big night. Evans had touchdown runs of 60 and 67 and averaged 14.7 yards per carry. It was the first time this season he has topped 100 yards.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
For the second time in three weeks Khaleke Hudson takes the defensive game ball. The sophomore was all over the field on Saturday night, harassing Minnesota ball carries in the backfield and sacking quarterback Demry Croft twice. He forced a fumble and set a school record with 7.5 tackles for loss. That performance catapulted him to the top of the Big Ten in tackles for loss and that game all by itself would have nearly been enough to put him in the top 20 in the conference.

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)

Michigan 35 – Rutgers 14: Peters takes over, steady in win over Rutgers

Monday, October 30th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

After suffering its second defeat in three games last weekend, Michigan got the benefit of a Homecoming matchup with Rutgers on Saturday to ease back into the win column. And they did just what they had to do with a 35-14 victory.

Final Stats
Michigan  Rutgers
Score 35 14
Record 6-2 (3-2) 3-5 (2-3)
Total Yards 471 195
Net Rushing Yards 334 94
Net Passing Yards 137 101
First Downs 25 9
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 3-25 3-20
Punts-Yards 3-125 8-352
Time of Possession 36:44 23:16
Third Down Conversions 3-of-9 3-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-25 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-1 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-5 1-of-1
Red Zone TDs-Chances 4-of-5 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Despite a 21-point margin of victory, it didn’t start out easy, however. John O’Korn started and led the first four possessions, which resulted in two punts, a touchdown, and an interception, before giving way to redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who made his long-awaited debut. And he did it in style, leading three straight touchdown drives to turn a 7-7 second-quarter score into a 28-7 third-quarter lead. And just like that, the Peters era had begun.

On his first drive, Peters completed passes of 15 yards to Ty Wheatley, 10 yards to Henry Poggi, and 12 yards to Nico Collins as Michigan went 77 yards on eight plays. Karan Higdon ran it in from 10 yards out.

After the Michigan defense forced a three-and-out, Peters got the ball back and completed a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-3. Four plays later, he connected with Chris Evans on a wheel route for a 20-yard touchdown.

On his third drive — Michigan’s first possession of the second half — Peters needed just one pass attempt, a 10-yard completion to Ty Isaac, as the Wolverines marched down the field for a 4-play, 54-yard touchdown drive. Fellow redshirt freshman Kareem Walker scored his first touchdown of the season, carrying it in from five yards out.

Rutgers answered with a touchdown on its ensuing possession to pull within 28-14, but that was as close as they would get.

Peters led another promising drive, completing a pair of 15-yard passes to Grant Perry and Sean McKeon, but Michigan had to settle for a field goal attempt. Quinn Nordin missed it from 35 yards out.

The Michigan defense forced another punt, and Higdon followed up a 12-yard run with a 49-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead at the final score of 35-14.

Michigan’s offense racked up 471 total yards, 334 of which came on the ground on 6.5 yards per carry. Peters completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, while O’Korn went 3-of-6 for 13 yards and an interception. Higdon rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while Isaac also topped 100 with 109 yards. The two averaged 8.8 and 7.8 yards per carry, respectively. Ten different Wolverines caught a pass, led by McKeon’s three for 31 yards.

Defensively, Michigan held Rutgers to just 195 total yards and just 94 rushing yards. Rutgers entered the game 11th nationally with just six sacks allowed through seven games, but Michigan got to the quarterback five times. Devin Bush led the way defensively with 11 tackles, two for loss, and half a sack. Chase Winovich recorded 1.5 sacks, while Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary each had one and Kwity Paye and Michael Dwumfour were each credited with a half.

Michigan stays home to host Minnesota next Saturday at 7:30pm. The Gophers are 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck.

Game Ball – Offense

Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Yes, it’s a stretch to give the game ball to a quarterback that completed just 10 passes for 124 yards, especially considering the game Higdon had with 158 yards rushing and two touchdowns. But Peters is easily the story of the game, taking over an offense that looked stagnant under O’Korn and making an immediate impact. I’m cautious to draw too many conclusions from his performance in one game — against Rutgers nonetheless — but it was a great first step and showed enough to earn his first start next Saturday. Was he perfect? No. The play before his touchdown pass, he should have been picked off. He also underthrew a wide open McKeon on the last possession of the day, a play that may have been another touchdown. But he took command of the offense, looked to be in control, made some nice plays, made the right reads, and didn’t make any costly mistakes.

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

Game Ball – Defense

Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
This was a tough one to pick this week because a bunch of different players made big plays for the Michigan defense. Although Devin Bush led the team in tackles, when I think about who made the biggest impact on the game, I have to go with Hurst. He was constantly in the Rutgers backfield, recorded eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Throughout the season he has cemented himself as a high draft pick next April and that was no different on Saturday.

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)

#2 Penn State 42 – #19 Michigan 13: Hapless Michigan outplayed, outcoached in State College

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan entered Saturday night’s matchup with No. 2 Penn State with a chance to make a statement in front of a Beaver Stadium whiteout and a primetime national television audience. They did make a statement, but not the kind they wanted, falling 42-13 and dropping out of the Top 25.

Final Stats
Michigan  Penn State
Score 13 42
Record 5-2 (2-2) 7-0 (4-0)
Total Yards 269 506
Net Rushing Yards 103 224
Net Passing Yards 166 282
First Downs 16 25
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 6-59 1-10
Punts-Yards 6-233 2-99
Time of Possession 32:56 27:04
Third Down Conversions 6-of-16 4-of-7
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-11 7-49
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 1-for-2 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 4-of-5
Red Zone TDs-Chances 2-of-2 4-of-5
Full Box Score

It was all Penn State from the outset as the Nittany Lions scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives while Michigan went three-and-out on their first two.

Heisman Trophy frontrunner Saquon Barkley didn’t waste any time making his statement, taking the game’s second play 69 yards for a touchdown. On Penn State’s second possession, it took just four plays to move 78 yards for another touchdown.

Michigan cornerback David Long intercepted Trace McSorley on Penn State’s third possession — which was threatening to score once again — and that allowed Michigan to show a little life. John O’Korn led a 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a 1-yard Karan Higdon touchdown run. But freshman kicker Quinn Nordin, who was once committed to Penn State before flipping to Michigan, missed the extra point to a chorus of boos.

Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out, but the offense wasn’t able to do anything. Penn State’s next possession stalled at the Michigan 33-yard line on a failed fourth-down conversion, and Michigan took advantage with a 8-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a 6-yard Ty Isaac touchdown run to pull within 14-13.

But it was all downhill from there. Penn State drove for another touchdown to take back the momentum just before the half and when Michigan couldn’t put points on the board on the first possession of the second half, Penn State put the nail in the coffin with a 9-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to go up 28-13. From there, the only drama was whether or not James Franklin would try to top the 49 points that Michigan hung on Penn State in Ann Arbor a year ago. They didn’t quite get there, but the damage was done.

Penn State gained 506 yards on a Michigan defense that was allowing just 223.8 yards per game. Penn State rushed for 224 yards on a rush defense that was allowing just 85.5 yards per game. Penn State scored 42 points on a defense that was giving up just 14.7. Barkley rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry and also caught three passes for 53 yards and a score. McSorely completed 17-of-26 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown and added 76 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 6.9 yards per carry.

Michigan, meanwhile, failed to top 20 points in regulation for the third straight week, managed just 269 total yards, and gave up seven sacks. O’Korn went 16-of-28 for 166 yards but failed to throw a touchdown pass for the third straight game. Higdon rushed for 45 yards on just three yards per carry, while Grant Perry led the way in the air with three receptions for 46 yards.

It was an outcome that most expected, even die-hard Michigan fans, but the matter with which it happened was a worst-case scenario. And now it has a chorus of hot takes and Twitter crusaders calling for Jim Harbaugh’s head. It will die down a bit if Michigan can take care of business the next three weeks against Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland, but it won’t go away completely until he wins a big game. With Wisconsin and Ohio State scheduled to close the regular season, he’ll get that shot, but unless there is significant improvement between now and then, it’ll likely just turn up the noise.

Michigan returns home to face Rutgers (3-4, 2-2) next Saturday at noon. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Game Ball – Offense

None
Higdon averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Issac averaged 6.0 but got just six carries. O’Korn threw for just 166 yards with no touchdowns and was sacked seven times. Kekoa Crawford made a nice catch, but it was his only one. Donovan Peoples-Jones got involved in the passing game but dropped a bubble screen that had potential for a huge play. Eddie McDoom is probably the best candidate for this week’s game ball with three receptions for 29 yards and a rush for eight yards, but it didn’t have much impact on the game. The offensive line was horrendous. So no game ball is being given out on offense this week.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

Khaleke Hudson (7 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Michigan’s defense had its worst game of the season defensively as Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead did a great job of picking on matchups where the Nittany Lions had advantages. That mostly involved getting Barkley matched up with linebacker Mike McCray who couldn’t keep up, but it also involved utilizing slot receivers against Michigan’s safeties. Hudson certainly wasn’t perfect himself, but he made his impact felt with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup that was nearly an interception in the end zone early in the game.

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)

#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)

Michigan State 14 – #7 Michigan 10: Turnovers, sloppy offense doom Michigan versus rival

Monday, October 9th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

With a storm promising 60 miles per hour wind gusts and torrential rain bearing down on Ann Arbor’s primetime matchup between the state’s two premier schools, getting out to a fast start was imperative to winning the game. While neither team featured much offense on Saturday night, it was Michigan State who beat Michigan to the storm and ultimately secured the 14-10 victory.

Michigan appeared to be getting out to a fast start, methodically moving down the field on the game’s opening possession mostly by running right at the Spartan defense. But as it has for much of the season, a promising drive stalled in the red zone and Michigan settled for a field goal to cap its 16-play, seven-minute drive.

Final Stats
Michigan  Michigan State
Score 10 14
Record 4-1 (1-1) 4-1 (2-0)
Total Yards 300 252
Net Rushing Yards 102 158
Net Passing Yards 198 94
First Downs 17 13
Turnovers 5 0
Penalties-Yards 7-53 11-81
Punts-Yards 7-298 11-430
Time of Possession 30:52 29:08
Third Down Conversions 5-of-17 2-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 0-0 4-33
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-0
PATs 1-for-1 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 1-of-2 2-of-2
Full Box Score

The defense forced a three-and-out, and the Wolverines went right back to the ground game, picking up gains of six and five, but Ty Isaac fumbled at the end of an 8-yard run and Michigan State recovered at the Michigan 38. Six plays later, the Spartans took a 7-3 lead on a 14-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brian Lewerke.

After back-to-back Michigan punts, the Spartans got on the board once again, this time driving 83 yards in nine plays for a 16-yard touchdown pass from Lewerke to Madre London.

The Michigan defense made its typical halftime adjustments, gaining a big edge in field position, and it paid off on Michigan’s second possession of the half. A Michigan State punt from the back of their own end zone gave the Wolverines possession at the MSU-33, and four plays later Michigan scored its first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard Khalid Hill run to pull within 14-10.

But the storm hit a short time later and neither offense was able to move the ball the remainder of the game. John O’Korn threw interceptions on three straight possessions, but Michigan’s defense held Michigan State to seven straight three-and-outs, keeping the game within reach.

Michigan got one last chance on the game’s final possession, starting on their own 20 with 34 seconds remaining. O’Korn found Karan Higdon for a 15-yard gain and another 15 yards were tacked on for a late hit. On the next play, O’Korn found Eddie McDoom for what would have been a big play, but McDoom dropped the open pass. O’Korn connected with Higdon again for 18 yards, stopping the clock with five seconds remaining at the MSU-37. O’Korn heaved a prayer into the end zone as time expired, but the ball was batted down and Michigan State earned its eighth win in 10 tried against the Wolverines.

Michigan out-gained Michigan State 300 to 252, but that’s no consolation in defeat. The Wolverines managed 102 rushing yards, but only 2.6 yards per carry — the first time in 24 tries under Jim Harbaugh that they lost despite rushing for 100 yards or more. The Isaac fumble was a major turning point early in the game as Michigan was averaging a respectable 4.5 yards per carry on 13 carries prior to that. But Michigan averaged just 1.7 yards per carry the rest of the game.

Higdon led the way with 65 yards on 5.4 yards per carry, but Michigan inexplicably only gave him 12 carries. Instead, in blustery and rainy conditions, the playcalling put the ball in O’Korns arm 35 times, something Wilton Speight has done just three times in 16 games and Jake Rudock did just three times in 13. That may be the most damning statistic for an offense that has regressed in each game this season.

It’s clear that there’s a reason that, until his injury, Speight was the starter despite his early-season struggles, and that with Tarik Black out for the season with injury the offense is full of young talent, but lacking in established playmakers. It’s also clear that for those reasons and more, the offensive coaching staff is lacking in confidence in its offense’s ability to move the ball and find the end zone. Something has to give as the schedule only gets tougher from here on, or Michigan could be looking at four or five losses.

It’s gut-check time and everyone from walk-ons to Harbaugh has to take a long look in the mirror and decide what kind of season they’re going to have. Speight is reportedly done for the season with three cracked vertebrae. Is O’Korn the best option to keep Michigan in contention for the Big Ten title? Or is it time to give Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey a chance to build on the future?

Personally, I ride with O’Korn as long as the title is within reach. But he’s going to need upperclassmen like Isaac to take care of the ball and experienced receivers like McDoom, Grant Perry, and Kekoa Crawford to catch open passes. Offensive line issues that have plagued Michigan for years won’t get fixed this year, but Harbaugh and staff need to devise a way to overcome that. With the nation’s best defense, the offense doesn’t have to be great. It may not even have to be good. Slightly above average would probably do the trick. But can Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, and Pep Hamilton attain that? The next two weeks will be telling.

Game Ball – Offense

Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
In a game in which Michigan showed little ability to move the ball consistently — save for the first possession of the game — Higdon was the one offensive standout, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He had rushes of six and three yards on that opening possession, but Chris Evans was the more featured back on that drive with five carries for 20 yards. Midway through the third quarter, Higdon had four straight carries that went for five, six, six, and six yards before a holding penalty on Mason Cole set the offense back to 1st-and-20. Two plays later, O’Korn was picked off. Often the only back that could gain positive yards, that Higdon got just 12 carries while O’Korn threw the ball 35 times is a big miss by the coaching staff.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
The game followed a similar trend for Michigan’s defense this season. It’s susceptible to a few big plays early in the game, but Don Brown makes halftime adjustments and shuts down the opposing offense in the second half. Michigan State managed just two first downs the entire second half — both on their last possession — and 66 yards on 30 plays in the second half. Hurst was a big part of that, stuffing the Michigan State running game with 2.5 tackles for loss, and drawing high praise from MSU center Brian Allen after the game.

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

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)

#11 Michigan 33 – #17 Florida 17: Second half surge, dominant defense carry U-M

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017


(Kevin Goheen, Land of 10)

The first game of the season is always a bit of a mystery as teams break in new players and work out some kinks as they hit the field for the first time after months of preparation. Ohio State struggled with Indiana in the first half before pulling away in the second. Washington struggled with Rutgers and Wisconsin struggled with Utah State on Friday night before both pulled away.

Michigan was one of the few ranked teams nationally to face a ranked power-five opponent, and despite having their share of struggles in the first half, dominated the second half to claim a resounding 33-17 win.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida
Score 33 17
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 433 192
Net Rushing Yards 215 11
Net Passing Yards 218 181
First Downs 19 9
Turnovers 2 3
Penalties-Yards 7-55 5-45
Punts-Yards 3-82 6-328
Time of Possession 34:13 25:47
Third Down Conversions 6-of-18 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-35 5-22
Field Goals 4-for-6 1-for-2
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Florida took the opening kickoff and went 46 yards in six plays for a 46-yard field goal, but Michigan’s defense held the Gators to just 146 total yards and no points the last 57 minutes of the game. It was a performance that put to rest — at least for now — the notion that the Wolverines’ defense would take a step back after losing 10 starters. The new look defense recorded six sacks, forced five turnovers (three recovered), and held Florida to just 192 total yards and only 11 yards on the ground. Florida’s offense wasn’t held below 200 yards all season a year ago.

Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, had its highs and lows but ultimately turned in a positive performance against one of the best defenses they’ll face all season. The first drive of the season yielded points on a 25-yard Quinn Nordin field goal that capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive. On the next possession, Chris Evans broke loose for a 29-yard run and on the very next play, Wilton Speight connected with freshman receiver Tarik Black for a 46-yard touchdown.

But the fun didn’t last for long as Speight threw back to back interceptions returned for touchdowns and suddenly the Wolverines trailed 17-10. Two possessions later, with John O’Korn in for Speight, Nordin showed off the big leg that earned him the top kicker of the 2016 class ranking, nailing a 55-yard field goal. Florida’s normally reliable kicker, Eddy Pinero, missed a 47-yarder on the ensuing possession and Florida took a 17-13 lead into the half.

The second half was all Michigan as the Wolverines took the first possession 75 yards on 10 plays for a 3-yard Karan Higdon touchdown to retake the lead. Freshman Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Michigan tacked on a 30-yard Nordin field goal.

Michigan’s defense forced its second fumble of the game three plays later when Josh Metellus stripped quarterback Feleipe Franks and Lawrence Marshall recovered at the Florida 31-yard line. The offense was unable to move the ball and Nordin kicked a 50-yard field goal, becoming the first kicker in Michigan history to boot two field goals of 50 yards or more in the same game.

In the fourth quarter, Nordin missed from 52 yards and 32 yards to keep Florida within reach, but the Michigan defense closed it out with a Chase Winovich sack of backup quarterback Malik Zaire, who fumbled and Noah Furbush recovered in the end zone for a Michigan touchdown.

All told, the Michigan offense put up 433 total yards in a balanced effort, rushing for 215 yards on 4.4 yards per carry against a stout Florida front seven and passing for 218. Speight completed 11-of-25 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Ty Isaac led Michigan on the ground with 114 yards on just 11 carries (10.4 yards per carry), while Evans 78 yards on 22 carries (3.5 ypc). Black caught two passes for 83 yards and one score. Grant Perry had the most receptions with four for 46 yards.

Defensively, Devin Bush was all over the field, finishing with seven tackles (five solo), three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Winovich, Mike McCray, Josh Uche, and Khaleke Hudson all recorded a sack as well.

Michigan hosts Cincinnati in its home opener next Saturday at 12pm. The Bearcats, under first-year head coach Luke Fickell, beat Austin Peay 26-14 to open the season.

Game Ball – Offense

Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
One of the big question marks for Michigan entering the season was the special teams play, especially at kicker where the reliable Kenny Allen had to be replaced. I said in my game preview that Florida had a big edge in this category, but Nordin put those fears to rest by nailing his first three field goals of the day, two of which were from 50 yards and beyond. Sure, he missed two in the fourth quarter, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt after his performance prior to that. The Michigan career record for field goals of 50 or more yards is four by Hayden Epstein from 1998-2001. In his first career game, Nordin made half of that, tying him with Mike Gillette, J.D. Carlson, Mike Lantry, and Jay Feely for third all-time.

Game Ball – Defense

Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
With only one returning starter on defense, Michigan needed some of its young talent to emerge and Bush did just that. He looked good in limited time as a true freshman in 2016, but shined in his first start. It almost didn’t happen as he was flagged for a late hit on the game’s first play. The play was reviewed for targeting, which would have ejected him form the game, but the officials ruled that it wasn’t. Good thing, because he was all over the field, recording seven tackles, three for loss, and two sacks.

Four Bold Predictions Results

Two good:
• Wilton Speight looks solid and throws for 250 yards as Michigan’s passing game looks exciting 
– Speight was up and down, making a nice 46-yard touchdown pass to Tarik Black on Michigan’s second possession, but then throwing two pick-sixes. The first wasn’t necessarily his fault — it was a little high but should have been caught by Kekoa Crawford — but the second was a straight overthrow. That led directly to 14 Florida points, the only two touchdowns the Gators scored. Speight finished with 181 yards but completed just 44 percent of his passes. The good news is that he gets to face a few less than stellar defenses in the coming weeks to gain his rhythm heading into the meat of the schedule.

• Chris Evans starts and runs well, but Karan Higdon leads the Wolverines in rushing 
– I’m giving myself a push on this one as I was right that Evans wouldn’t lead the team in rushing, but I predicted the wrong guy. Higdon did record Michigan’s lone rushing touchdown, but he was third with 28 yards gained on seven carries. Ty Isaac led the way with 114 yards on 111 carries, while Evans tallied 78 yards on 22 carries. Isaac was the surprise of the game offensively, looking like a much stronger runner than he did last season.

Two bad: 
• Michigan’s young secondary struggles but the pass rush, led by Chase Winovich, mitigates the damage 
– I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one. The defense performed admirably all game, holding Florida to just three points and 192 total yards. But if there is one nit-pick it is that the young secondary gave up a few deep balls. Brandon Watson and Lavert Hill each got beat a couple of times by Florida’s receivers. Franks is far from the best quarterback the Wolverines will face this season, so they’ll have to shore that up before heading to Happy Valley in mid-October. The pass rush got to Florida quarterbacks six times including the game-sealing sack and forced fumble by Winovich that resulted in a Michigan touchdown.

• Two missed Michigan field goals keep the game closer than it should be 
– This appeared to be a bad prediction through the first three quarters when sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin nailed his first three field goals, two of which were from 50 yards or beyond. But he came back down to earth a bit in the fourth quarter with two missed field goals that did keep Florida in the game. Nordin did, however, ease some concerns about the placekicking job in Kenny Allen’s absence.