Also available on iTunes.
Search for UMGoBlue.
Also available on iTunes.
Search for UMGoBlue.
The (#24) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played 2 games last week, and they won them both, handily. Of course, both opponents were Division II teams, and one of the games was an exhibition, but still. Wins are wins. On Monday (11/10/2014), Michigan trounced Wayne State 86-43, in the exhibition game, then on Saturday (11/15/2014), UM beat Hillsdale College 92-68. Both games were in Crisler Arena. Since the exhibition game doesn’t count, UM’s record is now 1-0.
Michigan looked much better against Wayne State than they did vs. Hillsdale. In the WSU game, UM opened a nice lead early, and never looked back. In the Hillsdale game, UM started slow and Hillsdale was hot, and Michigan found themselves down 15-6 early. They hit three straight 3-pointers to tie the game up, then never trailed again, but they didn’t really pull away until the last 10 minutes of the game.
These early games are essentially “controlled scrimmages”, where Coach Beilein gets to try out unusual combinations of players, and almost everyone gets to play, and score. With the outcome never in doubt, the players are allowed a little more leeway, and small mistakes are noted but not worried about as much. The bigger, tougher games are coming, and soon.
So, what can we learn about this team from blowout wins against substandard opponents? Not much. We can see who looks comfortable out there, and we can check out the freshmen, but that’s about it.
The stats for the WSU game look like you would expect: Michigan played pretty well, but a little ragged at times. UM shot pretty well overall (28-for-56 = 50.0%), but not so well from 3-point range (7-for-22 = 31.8%). They shot a lot of free throws, and most of them went in (23-for-29 = 79.3%). They won the rebounding battle (40-33) and the turnover battle (8-18). Those are reasonable stats for an exhibition against an overmatched opponent.
The stats for the Hillsdale game are actually more impressive than the WSU stats, except that UM let Hillsdale score a lot more easily. UM shot pretty well overall again (30-for-58 = 51.7%), and they shot a lot better from 3-point range (11-for-19 = 57.9%). They even shot free throws better (21-for-25 = 84.0%). They won the rebounding battle (35-28) and the turnover battle (6-14). They played well enough to win comfortably, but they certainly didn’t clobber Hillsdale the way most people expected.
Individually, the 3 sophomores (Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton Jr.) all hit double figures in both games. Irvin had 13 and 21 points, LeVert had 16 and 20 points, and Walton had 11 and 22 points. No one else hit double figures. The other 2 starters (freshmen Kameron Chatman and Mark Donnal) both played pretty well. Chatman had 9 and 4 points, and Donnal had 4 and 9 points. Chatman was the leading rebounder in the WSU game (6).
At this point, it looks like there are 5 bench players who will be part of the main rotation: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (freshman), Spike Albrecht (junior), Aubrey Dawkins (freshman), Ricky Doyle (freshman), and DJ Wilson (freshman). These 5 guys all played in both games, and they all scored in at least one game. MAAR had 2 and 0 points, Albrecht had 4 and 4 points, Dawkins had 8 and 3 points, Doyle had 4 and 7 points, and Wilson had 9 and 2 points. Doyle and Wilson looked the best of the non-starting freshmen.
The other bench players (Max Bielfeldt [junior], Andrew Dakich [sophomore], Austin Hatch [freshman], and Sean Lonergan [sophomore]) had a mixed week. Bielfeldt played in the WSU game and had 5 points, but didn’t play at all in the Hillsdale game. Dakich didn’t play in either game, even when Michigan had a 40-point lead with 1:40 left in the WSU exhibition game. Lonergan played in both games, but didn’t score in either. Then there’s Austin Hatch: he played in the final minute of both games, and he actually scored a point in the WSU game! It was a very emotional moment, and he got a great ovation for his efforts. He didn’t attempt a shot in the Hillsdale game, but he did get in.
This week, Michigan plays 2 games, both in Crisler Arena, and both as “regional” games in the Legends Classic. Even though these games are associated with the Legends Classic, they don’t have any effect on the Championship Round in the Barclay Center next week. Michigan and the other 3 “host” teams (Oregon, Villanova, and Virginia Commonwealth) are all guaranteed spots in the Championship Round, regardless of what happens in the 2 “regional” games that they each host. The 2 games that UM is hosting are Bucknell (Monday 11/17/2014, 8:00 p.m., BTN) and Detroit-Mercy (Thursday 11/20/2014, 6:00 p.m., BTN). Michigan will be favored to win both games, but they will be a lot more challenging than the 2 Division II teams that Michigan has faced so far. Come on down to Crisler Arena to see how they do.
Also available on iTunes.
Search for UMGoBlue.
Finally! It’s time for college basketball! After the disappointing UM football season, I’m ready for some basketball. The first game is tonight (11/10/2014) in Crisler Arena at 7:00. It’s an exhibition vs. Wayne State. The team also had an open practice last week (Wednesday, 11/05/2014), which I went to and enjoyed.
Here’s my standard description of this weekly column:
Yeah, it’s time for University of Michigan men’s basketball, and this is the place to read all about it: “Nothing But ‘Net” on UMGoBlue.com. Check back every Monday morning between now and the end of the season (hopefully the National Championship game again) for a quick, concise wrap-up of the previous week, and a look ahead at the upcoming week, all in one easy-to-read article.
As always here at UMGoBlue.com, the perspective is “by fans, for fans”. I’m a fan (since 1974), and I go to all the home games, and watch/listen to all the away games. I don’t have any special access (other than being an usher in Sections 209-210), I don’t go to the press conferences, and I don’t interview high school recruits. I see the same things you do, and write about them as a fan.
Once again, let’s get right to the big question:
How good is the 2014-2015 team going to be? The quick answer: pretty good.
The last couple of years, my answer has been “really good”, not “pretty good”. Last year, I was right: UM won the Big Ten title outright (by 3 games), and made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. This year, I don’t have my expectations set as high. For the third or fourth year in a row, Michigan has the same problem: extreme youth. That makes it hard to predict how good (or bad) Michigan will be. On the one hand, UM will lean heavily on 6 new freshmen, which can be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, Coach Beilein has proven time and again that he can get great results from a young, inexperienced team. Michigan is ranked in the mid-20′s in all the preseason polls, and picked to finish 4th or 5th in the (newly expanded) Big Ten.
Read on for more details.
Michigan ended last season with a record of 28-9 (15-3 in the Big Ten). They went 8-4 in non-conference play, with some good wins (Florida State, in San Juan, and Stanford, in Brooklyn), some understandable losses (at Iowa State, at Duke, and home vs. Arizona), and one disappointing loss (Charlotte, in San Juan). They won their first 8 Big Ten games, including big wins at Nebraska (their only home loss last year), at Wisconsin, home vs. Iowa, and at Michigan State, before they hit a rough patch. They lost 3 out of their next 5 games (at Indiana, at Iowa, and home vs. Wisconsin), before winning their last 5 games, which works out to 15-3 in league play.
They entered the Big Ten Tournament as the #1 seed, and made it to the championship game, where they got crushed by Michigan State.
They entered the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, and they made it to the Elite Eight, where they lost on a last-second shot to Kentucky.
The trouble with having a good team with good players is that those good players are enticed by the NBA to leave early. After the 2012-2013 season, UM lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., who both got drafted in the 1st round. After last season, they lost 3 more stars: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas. Stauskas (8th pick) and McGary (21st pick) went in the 1st round, and GR3 (40th pick), went in the 2nd round. Those 5 players were the starting 5 for Michigan when they played in the National Championship game in April 2013. That’s a lot of talent to lose.
Besides McGary, GR3, and Stauskas, Michigan lost 4 other players from last season’s team: 2 freshmen, 1 graduating senior, and 1 transfer:
McConnell and Anlauf were freshmen walk-ons on the practice squad, and they only played in “garbage time”. Other than a brief mention on UMHoops.com, I can’t find out anything else about their departure from the team. McConnell did have injury problems last season. He also wrote an amusing official blog for the team last season, and I’ll miss that.
Even though Horford was a senior, he had junior eligibility, due to a redshirt season (his sophomore season, with a broken foot). He is the 2nd player in as many years to use the “graduate transfer rule” that allows graduating seniors with a year of eligibility left to enroll in grad school at another school (as long as the new school has a program that the previous school doesn’t offer) and have instant eligibility, without having to sit out a “transfer year”. So, that’s what Horford is doing. It’s a shame he decided to leave, since he would have been the featured big man this season, with Morgan graduating and McGary leaving for the NBA.
Finally, there’s Jordan Morgan. What a great guy! He didn’t just graduate, he got his BS in Engineering, then got his Masters in Engineering. He was a mainstay defensively, and he always played hard, kept his mouth shut, and was a quiet leader. He will be missed.
Michigan has a very talented group of players returning this season. Here they are, by class year (eligibility):
Mark Donnal #34 (6’9″, 240 pounds, F) – Mark voluntarily redshirted last season, so he still has freshman eligibility. He practiced with the team all last season, and the word out of practice was that he gave Morgan and Horford all they could handle. He didn’t show much of that ability in the open practice, but he did show a lot of potential. He is certainly the best outside shooter that Beilein has had in a “big man” since he got to Michigan. He’ll be the starter at center, at least until someone beats him out.
Andrew Dakich #11 (6’2″, 190 pounds, G) – Andrew was the leader of the practice squad (“The Bench Mob”) last season, especially during the games, when his reactions on the bench were often as exciting as the plays on the court. He only played in “garbage time” last season, but he looked pretty good in the open practice, and he might get some mainstream playing time this season. Note, he changed his number from 5 last season to 11 this season.
Zak Irvin #21 (6’6″, 215 pounds, G/F) – Zak put on 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season, and you can’t miss the new look. He was “just a shooter” last season, and he was very good at it, but we’re expecting to see a more complete game from his this season. He should be one of the stars, and one of the leading scorers in most games.
Sean Lonergan #20 (6’5″, 200 pounds, F) – Sean is the other returning member of last season’s “Bench Mob”. He only played in “garbage time” last season, and I expect more of the same this season. He looked good in the open practice, but there’s a lot of talent ahead of him.
Duncan Robinson #22 (6’8″, 190 pounds, G/F) – Duncan is a transfer from (Division III) Williams College. He’ll have to sit out this season, and he’ll have sophomore eligibility next season. He was a great scorer at Williams. We’ll see how that translates to Division I basketball next season.
Derrick Walton Jr. #10 (6’0″, 185 pounds, G) – Derrick had a very good freshman season, but he was following a tough act (Trey Burke), and he was on a team with 3 future NBA players. I expect him to be a bigger part of the offense this season, and if he shows the same improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons that previous players have under Beilein (Darius Morris, Trey Burke, and Nik Stauskas, for example), he’ll be another star and leading scorer on the team.
Michael (“Spike”) Albrecht #2 (5’11″, 175 pounds, G) – Spike is one of the oldest and most experienced players on this team, and one of the leaders. He’ll back up Walton at point guard, and chip in the occasional big 3-pointer.
Max Bielfeldt #44 (6’7″, 245 pounds, F) – Max was voluntarily redshirted his freshman year, so he has junior eligibility. He’s a big, strong player, and he did pretty well last year. He is the only big man on the team with any experience in a college game, so he’ll get some playing time, especially early in the season, while the young big men are learning the game.
Caris LeVert #23 (6’7″, 200 pounds, G) – Caris grew another inch and put on another 15 pounds since last season, for the second year in a row. He’s certainly the most versatile player on the team, and he should be one of the stars and leading scorers.
None. Bielfeldt is listed on the official roster as a senior, but he still has junior eligibility. Listing him as a senior just means that he probably won’t be invited back for his redshirt senior year. Maybe he’ll use the “graduate transfer rule” next year?
Coach Beilein brought in another interesting recruiting class. While it isn’t as highly-ranked as the last couple classes, it fills in the gaps on the roster quite nicely:
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 (6’4″, 175 pounds, G) – From here on, he’s either going to be “MAAR” or “Rahk” (his nickname on the team). Rahk was a late signing by Coach Beilein. He looked good in the open practice, and he should be part of the regular rotation.
Kameron Chatman #3 (6’7″, 210 pounds, G/F) – Kameron is the highest-ranked recruit in this class. He has already earned a starting spot, and he showed us why in the open practice. He looked “college ready”.
Aubrey Dawkins #24 (6’6″, 190 pounds, G/F) – Aubrey has been a nice surprise. He was another late signing by Coach Beilein, and it’s hard to figure out why so few other schools were interested in him. He’s got good size, a sweet shot, and great basketball IQ. The other players say that he’s the best leaper and dunker on the team. He continues the recent trend of sons of former NBA players coming to UM (GR3, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jon Horford, and Jordan Dumars). Aubrey’s father is Johnny Dawkins, who played at Duke and in the NBA, and now coaches Stanford.
Ricky Doyle #32 (6’9″, 245 pounds, F) – Ricky is yet another big man, giving Michigan lots of depth and options at the power forward and center positions. He has a 7’2″ wingspan, and can play with his back to the basket. He looked OK in the open practice, and he’ll get his chance at center. He’s a “banger” underneath, where Donnal is more of a “finesse” player.
Austin Hatch #30 (6’6″, 215 pounds, G) – Austin is an interesting story. He committed to Michigan on 06/15/2011, then was in a plane crash 10 days later that killed his father and stepmother, and critically injured him. He was in intensive care for a couple months, and missed a lot of high school, so he was given an extra year of high school eligibility, and moved his college commitment to 2014. He has recovered enough to play limited minutes on his high school team, but it remains to be seen if he will ever be able to play Division 1 basketball. He’ll get his chance at Michigan. He had very limited participation in the open practice, and he didn’t look ready to play yet. He may end up with a career-long medical redshirt.
DJ Wilson #5 (6’8″, 200 pounds, F) – DJ sounds like another GR3. He’s athletic, he can shoot the 3-pointer, and he runs the floor well. He was a crowd favorite at the open practice, especially when he swatted a shot in the lane, which is his specialty. He’s another player with a wingspan much greater than his height: 7’3″
The key freshmen are Chatman, Donnal, and Doyle. They will need to grow up quickly.
Let’s take a look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:
|11/10/2014 (Mon)||Wayne State (exh)||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|11/15/2014 (Sat)||Hillsdale College||Ann Arbor, MI||2:00 p.m.|
|Legends Classic – Ann Arbor Regional|
|11/17/2014 (Mon)||Bucknell||Ann Arbor, MI||8:00 p.m.|
|11/20/2014 (Thu)||Detroit-Mercy||Ann Arbor, MI||6:00 p.m.|
|Legends Classic – Championship|
|11/24/2014 (Mon)||Oregon||Brooklyn, NY||9:00 p.m.|
|11/25/2014 (Tue)||Villanova/Virginia Common.||Brooklyn, NY||TBA|
|11/29/2014 (Sat)||Nicholls State||Ann Arbor, MI||4:00 p.m.|
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|12/02/2014 (Tue)||Syracuse||Ann Arbor, MI||7:30 p.m.|
|12/06/2014 (Sat)||New Jersey Inst. Of Tech.||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/09/2014 (Tue)||Eastern Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|12/13/2014 (Sat)||Arizona||Tucson, AZ||5:15 p.m.|
|12/20/2014 (Sat)||SMU||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/22/2014 (Mon)||Coppin State||Ann Arbor, MI||8:00 p.m.|
|12/30/2014 (Tue)||Illinois||Ann Arbor, MI||3:00 p.m.|
|01/03/2015 (Sat)||Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||2:15 p.m.|
|01/06/2015 (Tue)||Penn State||State College, PA||7:00 p.m.|
|01/10/2015 (Sat)||Minnesota||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00/1:00 p.m.|
|01/13/2015 (Tue)||Ohio State||Columbus, OH||7:00 p.m.|
|01/17/2015 (Sat)||Northwestern||Ann Arbor, MI||8:15 p.m.|
|01/20/2015 (Tue)||Rutgers||Piscataway, NJ||6:30 p.m.|
|01/24/2015 (Sat)||Wisconsin||Ann Arbor, MI||4:00/7:00 p.m.|
|01/27/2015 (Tue)||Nebraska||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|02/01/2015 (Sun)||Michigan State||East Lansing, MI||1:00 p.m.|
|02/05/2015 (Thu)||Iowa||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|02/08/2015 (Sun)||Indiana||Bloomington, IN||1:00 p.m.|
|02/12/2015 (Thu)||Illinois||Champaign, IL||9:00 p.m.|
|02/17/2015 (Tue)||Michigan State||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|02/22/2015 (Sun)||Ohio State||Ann Arbor, MI||1:00/3:00/5:15|
|02/28/2015 (Sat)||Maryland||College Park, MD||TBA|
|03/03/2015 (Tue)||Northwestern||Evanston, IL||9:00 p.m.|
|03/07/2015 (Sat)||Rutgers||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00/2:15 p.m.|
|Big Ten Tournament|
|03/11/2015 (Wed)||Opening Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/12/2015 (Thu)||1st Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/13/2015 (Fri)||2nd Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/14/2015 (Sat)||Semifinals||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/15/2015 (Sun)||Championship||Indianapolis, IN||3:30 p.m.|
Some comments on the schedule:
I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):
That’s a lot more “Toss Up” games than usual, due to the unpredictable nature of a team that will lean on freshmen so heavily. If UM can win all 15 of the “Should Win” games, and half of the 12 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 21-9 (12-6 in the Big Ten). That won’t be good enough to win the Big Ten, but it will get UM a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is tonight (Monday, 11/10/2014, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Wayne State. Of course, UM will win handily, and get to try all kinds of combinations of players out there. Come on down to Crisler Arena to check out this season’s edition of Michigan Basketball, and stop by sections 209/210 to say hi.
If this game gave you a feeling of déjà vu, it was not surprising, since the Wolverines made the same trek last year, traveling to Evanston, Illinois to battle the Northwestern Wildcats. M had won the past two years in overtime. Hopefully, this schedule oddity of two away games in a row will cease with this one.
It looked for a while that it would be another overtime win or loss. The Wolverines, thanks to a Frank Clark rush to exactly the right spot behind the line of scrimmage, caused NW QB Simeian to slip down, preventing a winning two point conversion.
This ended the threat of a tie and overtime with seconds left. NW had connected on a 3-yard pass with 3 seconds left to make it 10-9. Frank Clark lived up to his reputation and played an outstanding game. He knocked down passes, and was often in the NW back field.
Again this year, the Wolverines were hoping to improve on their recent dismal road record while in Evanston, as they had last year, and they did.
This was not a win that will draw raves, but the kind of win that will raise eyebrows, and shake heads. Early in the third quarter the offense became a Wolverine offensive comedy of errors. Even so, a win is a win.The atmosphere surrounding M football would have reached an enhanced level of desperation with a loss.
There already was more than enough Wolverine desperation this year as a so-so season ticks out. The fate of the program still hangs in limbo this year. Lack of wins now could, should, and would guarantee major coaching changes after the season. Take your choice as to which of could, should, or would you think is applicable. Or are all of them are applicable?
That backs were to the wall could be said of any less than .500 team. It was now or never at Northwestern. It was winning now, or never go to a Bowl game this year. Likely a loss in this game would have put the salvaging of even a very mildly respectable season beyond their scope.
There still remains some slim hope of a bowl game. It appears that only winning out can save the coaches. That seems like a tall order for Team 135. Good bowl or bad bowl, M needs those 15 practices a bowl affords.
M’s OFFENSE STRUGGLED MOST OF THE GAME AGAINST A PEDESTRIAN DEFENSE:
Michigan’s offense in this game was something to behold for mostly the wrong reasons. The first series of the second half was particularly remarkable for wrong reasons.
It was an offensive comedy of errors. Funchess was in motion once and was hit by the center snap to Gardner in the spread. Gardner tripped over Smith in the backfield. What? Why? The football was grabbed from TE Jake Butt once for an interception. Thought Jake should have fought for the ball harder.
Devin Funchess’ game was off, especially earlier, as he muffed a couple of catches that he would normally make. At times he seemed out of sorts, as did the offense as a whole.
The offense was an unimpressive 1 of 12 on third down conversions, and 0 for 1 on 4th down conversions.
On the good side of the ledger, Funchess made a nice grab for an eighteen yard reception to set up Smiths 3-yard TD run for the Wolverine’s only TD. Butt had a nice catch or two. Still the beginning of the third quarter was a display of remarkably poor offensive football.
Devin Gardner looked gimpy, slow afoot, seemed to have little burst, which could all be due to injury to a leg. As I have previously stated, his courage has to be admired, but his execution is sometimes lacking. He was again off target passing as proved by two interceptions that hurt the cause. Fortunately the Wildcats provided two in return.
On one of M’s interceptions, there was an open receiver on the sideline. In the first half the Wolverines were deep in Wildcat territory three times and engineered no points.
The offense made no notable scoring drives except for a single field goal drive.
Devin threw for 105-yards and hoisted his two interceptions. He had no TDs. With the Wolverines dominating much of the game on the ground, it is inexplicable that they were held to one TD.
Saturday evening this was not just a case of the Wolverine OL not showing up. Except for a few cases they played reasonably well.
RB De’Veon Smith took a while to warm up. Smith finally got going for a personal high of 121-yards which included the Wolverines only TD, via a three yard run mid-way into the third quarter.
Early in the game he missed the hole on an attempt by cutting outside once when he shouldn’t have, and then did not follow FB Joe Kerridge through the hole in a subsequent rush.
Later Smith produced some good runs. They were tough runs, hard runs, dragging people, especially helpful in crunch time, when the lead was still up for grabs. He toted 18 times for 133-yards, ran for a TD, and had a long of 34-yards.
M got its field goal as a result of a Wildcat miscue. Jehu Chesson captured the football at the NW 21.
Amara Darboh led the receivers with 4 catches for 41-yards with a long of 16, and he replaced the injured Norfleet at the punt return position.
At times, the offense seemed it was lost in a Purple Haze, if not a Purple Daze. They still did enough to win, but with zero style points. This win will not quell any anybody’s anxiety, or the clamor for change. This offense too often does not look well drilled or coached, and at times they look quite the opposite. Most possessions Saturday secured no points. The Wolverines rushed for 168-yards, and passed for 109-yards.
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DEFENSE:
The Wolverine defense, especially the defensive line acquitted itself well for most of the game, but fell down late in the game allowing a field goal and a TD. For most of the game they were gangbusters against the run, but NW’s Trevor Siemien threw for 268-yards, and a TD. He also had two interceptions.Fortunately. Matt Godin grabbed one of those interceptions, soon after Devin had tossed one.
The defense often held NW to three and outs, sometimes stopped fourth and one, but faded some in the late stages of the game. Were they on the field too often and too long? Late in the game NW produced their only TD of the game to provide the suspenseful finish. It was the defense that did the most to preserve this victory.
When an interception went 79-yards to the M 15, the defense raised their hackles. They made two plays for a loss, and then forced Siemien into an intentional grounding call, which removed the threat of a field goal.
Frank Clark and Jake Ryan led the defense. Jake again had 11 tackles. They held the Wildcats to 60-yards rushing, while they lost 69-yards for minus 9-yards gained. The Wolverines were credited with 5 sacks for 59-yards of loss.
Mario Ojemudia had 2 of them.
They also made 2 interceptions. Frank Clark was outstanding. His last hurry preserved the last minute victory. Jake Ryan had an outstanding game. The entire defensive line played well.
WILL HAGERUP MAKES SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL:
Will Hagerup made special teams special on this day. He punted 7 times for 268-yards. He dropped two punts around the NW one yard line, providing outstanding field position. Matt Wile had one FG attempt blocked, but split the posts with his next one.
M CAN’T CALL THEM MILDCATS ANY MORE: Under Pat Fitzgerald, it can’t be safely presumed that the Wildcats can be labeled Mildcats, and that a confrontation with the Wildcats will find them a team that can’t compete with the Wolverines, thereby securing kudos for the Wolverines in easy victory. That hasn’t happened in several years. NW has been right there the last three years, but fortunately the Wolverines have prevailed by the slimmest of margins all three years.
Forget the fact that the Wolverines led the series 15-5-2 before last Saturday, or led at Ryan Field 19-7-0, also before Saturday. The ‘Cats had enough to handle the Wolverines this year unless the Wolverines played a great 60 or 60 plus + minutes. And they didn’t offensively. For the last few years it has taken a scramble to overtime and multiple OTs to beat them. That was avoided Saturday evening by only the narrowest of margins.
In 2013, it took the Wolverines three overtimes, with last minute heroics by Place Kicker Gibbons who hit a scrambling 44-yarder to tie in regulation, after a Gallon catch had taken the ball to MW’s 27. In the second OT, the teams traded field goals. In the third, Devin Gardner ran the ball in via an option on third and goal, and Devin ran in the two point conversion to put the game out of reach, for a final score of 27-19.
In 2012, with 18 ticks on the clock, Roy Roundtree caught a 53-yard gainer, and Gibbons again sent the game to OT with a 26-yard FG with just two seconds left. In OT, Gardner ran a one yard bootleg for a TD. The defense got tough and M had a 38-31 in a single OT victory.
THIS SEASON, THE ‘CATS HAVE HAD THEIR TROUBLES, AND WE HAVE HAD OURS. IN SOME WAYS EACH TEAM MIRRORED THE OTHER:
There were reasons that the Wildcats were only 2-3 in the Big Ten this season prior to Saturday, just as there were reasons for the Wolverines similar Big Ten record. The Cats have had significant injuries, more than the Wolverines. Both have fielded troubled Offensive Lines and porous pass protection. The Wildcats 4.4 yards per play, prior to last Saturday, was anemic. That placed them 123rd of 128 FBS teams. They had only scored 7 points in their last three halves prior to Saturday. They faced the possibility of being without three of their best and speediest receivers. Buckley, Vault, and Shuler were dinged. They missed some practice Wednesday.
But more disturbing for them was that Iowa disaster last Saturday. The Hawks sledge hammered them 48-7 in Kinnock. Wildcat QB Trevor Simian has had inadequate passing time and has taken a beating. Sound familiar? Fitzgerald bemoans a lack of experienced depth. So does Hoke.
NW notes cited the fact that M has not had back to back wins this year as encouraging to their cause. True, but they have them now.
The series had been hyper competitive and with M’s sometime inconsistent offense this season it seemed it would be close again, and it was. Saturday Trevor did much better than Devin in the passing game, which I found surprising.
BRIEF SCORING RECAP:
Michigan drew first blood after Chesson recovered a NW fumble at the NW 21-yard line at 6:09 of the third quarter. An 18-yard pass to Devin Funchess put it at the three, and De’Veon Smith took it into the end zone. M-7, NW-0.
At 7:26 of the fourth quarter NW answered with a 21-yard FG preceded by a 95-yard drive. M’s Henry made a notable 11-yard sack to stop the drive. The FG made it 7 to 3.
At 3:10 M answered with a 37-yard FG after the offense’s only real drive of the day. Now it was 10 to three.
At 00.03 NW then produced a three yard TD pass, after a 14-play 74-yard drive during the defense’s worst lapse of the day. It was now 10 to 9 and NW opted to go for two with no result as Frank Clark lived up to billing in the best way. Final: M-10, NW- 9.
Now it’s a week off, and the last home game of the season against Maryland for the first time as a Big Ten team.
As usual, a desperate Michigan needs another win.
Also available on iTunes.
Search for UMGoBlue.
DAVID BRANDON RESIGNATION ANNOUNCED:
On Friday, October 31, 2014, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel held a press conference to announce that he had accepted the resignation that Athletic Director David Brandon had submitted earlier that morning.
A former Wolverine football player under Bo Schembechler, Jim Hackett, was named interim Athletic Director. For nineteen years the Grand Rapids resident was CEO of office furniture giant Steelcase. He has full authority to let the current coaching go, if necessary, and is searching for a new Athletic Director.
Saturday evening, after the game Coach Hoke politely confined his answers to an eager press to the football game just played and questions regarding the David Brand resignation would be entertained at the Monday morning presser.
Prior to the game one had to wonder if the players would be on an even keel because of another major distraction. They were on target. Saturday the effort was commendable on both sides of the ball. Hoke’s blinders must be working for them. Remarkably, they have not given up the fight.
Saturday evening the Wolverines hosted Homecoming. November forgot it wasn’t March, and came in like the proverbial lion. It was cold and windy. Even if the snow stayed away, November Football should be played at noon, but this one was tolerable in that it was dry. The Blast from the Past was there as usual on Homecoming.
A slight favorite over the Hoosiers, and with somewhat similar records, the Wolverines regained their former winning ways. It has not been an easy task with the constant hullabaloo that has surrounded the program this season, along with their somewhat surprising string of losses this season.
Utah, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Michigan State had seemingly buried M’s dreams of a bowl, and had certainly laid to rest their first participation in the Big Ten Title game. A win against Penn State had interrupted their current string of defeats, and Saturday’s victory lit a glimmer, just a glimmer of hope, that with two more or at best three, some sort of minor December Bowl might be achieved.
Even it is only “The Motor” Bowl in Detroit, the fifteen additional practices will benefit the team next year, so take one for the team and swallow your pride.
It had seemed there might be little left to fight for this season. But there was plenty, and the name of that game was the pride and tradition of the football Wolverines. The question was whether or not this somber group of guys could discover the inner strength to continue to battle and battle hard, and battle hard they did. Sounds corny, but that is about all they had left to contest for at this time. Wolverine pride!
PREGAME HOOSIER QB TROUBLES AND COMMENTS
Indiana had plenty to challenge the struggling Wolverines, but they had troubles at the QB position. Two experienced QBs transferred before the season. Nate Sudfield won the starting job, but injured his shoulder. Zander Diamont was now the starter, and he had but a single game under his belt. The Wolverines took his measure Saturday. As mentioned above he passed for 24-net yards. He had one nice run.
There are lots of statistics that favor the Wolverines as a good and rising defense, but some observations still boggle the mind, like big plays, a sometimes errant pass defense, and MSU’s Langford’s rushing in the Wolverines last game against the Spartans. Also the passive defense in the final minutes of the second quarter in some games this season remains a mystery. Saturday they foreclosed a late second quarter TD opportunity and Indiana helped by whacking the post with a FG attempt.
WOLVERINES CONTROL ERRORS
Very little outside of the red zone has favored the Wolverines struggling offense. Sometimes they can’t run, sometimes they can’t throw safely, and sometimes they can’t hang on to the ball. M receivers dropped 7 passes at MSU, and the QB position committed three errors. There they scored only one TD. There seemed to be minimal offensive innovation from the coaching staff. Some of that was put to bed Saturday with a decent all around offensive performance.
The Hoosiers aren’t as good as MSU defensively, but they are improved over prior years. If the errors hadn’t eased for the Wolverines, the unthinkable would have become reality. Devin did not fumble and threw only on interception. The defense prevented that gaff from turning around the game.
SOME SATURDAY PERFORMANCES
Devin Gardner threw 172 consecutive passes without an interception before Notre Dame picked him off in the third Quarter of this year’s game, but since then, it seems his confidence had evaporated, and he had become a consistent TO machine.
But for all of Devin’s Gardener’s past bobbles, he eclipsed Rick Leach for 5th place in total yardage. He had amassed 6,457-yards. He needed 198 more to catch Rick Leach, and he passed for 220 net yards Saturday. He threw an interception, had a couple of near misses, but he had time, and it improved his game. He threw some very nice passes. He was 22 of 29 with just one interception, and was sacked just once. He threw two spectacular touchdowns. It was a very solid performance.
Scrambling to the shadow of the Line of Scrimmage, he flipped a short pass to TE Keith Heitzman for a TD. Later in the game, he hit Amara Darboh on a precision laser at the goal line for a TD. Tightly covered Darboh made a great grab. Darboh had his best day as a Wolverine, collaring nine for 107-yards and a TD.
The defense held the Hoosiers to 24-yards passing, kept the nation’s leading rusher, Tevin Coleman inside, and thereby held the nation’s eighth rushing attack in check, yielding only 167-yards on the ground. Brian Mone recovered an early Hoosier fumble. Ryan Glasgow made a spectacular fumble recovery later in the game. Finally they were creating advantageous TOs.
Jake Ryan led the defense with eleven tackles, two forced two fumbles, and 2.5 TFLs, as the Wolverines won their 19th straight against the Hoosiers. Indiana last won in M Stadium in 1967.
COLEMAN IS THE HOOSIER THREAT
Running Back Tevin Coleman carries their offense. He has gained a hundred yards for ten straight games, posting a 100-yard game against the Spartans and Wolverines. He was college football’s leading rusher so far this season. Only 5’7’ tall, he is also dynamite on special teams and is a threat to break one whenever he touches the football. He was thoroughly squelched in the first half against the Wolverines. He had nine carries for 42-yards. For the game, he managed 108-yards on 27 carries with a long of 17 on the late Hoosier TD drive, and no TDs. Credit the defense with preventing big plays. This athlete can make them out of the backfield and as a return man. Nice defensive result.
Last year the Gardner to Gallon connection was spectacular as the Wolverines had won a shootout, 63 to 47. This year’s game was in stark contest to last year’s offensive riot.
RB DRAKE JOHNSON FINALLY GETS HIS CHANCE AND SHINES:
Ann Arbor native Drake Johnson had a very good game Saturday. No longer hobbled by injury, in the second half he had the best game of his career, slamming and finessing his way to two TDs. He showed good burst, tenacity, vision, and toughness. In my opinion, perhaps his was the best performance of an M running back this year.
Coach Hoke on Johnson: “ I think if you know anything about Drake he’s always been very motivated and a hard worker. I would say that…because he’s getting more chances with repetitions in practice, that’s helped quite a bit. He made some very good cuts, he accelerated through cuts. That’s some natural ability that he has.”
“He’s more of a slasher than the others. The one thing he does have is a very good burst when you look at the gears. He’s got the ability to take it the distance also. “We’re very happy with his performance, very impressed with it. I know we’ll look at the tape and make those judgments, but we’re pretty excited about what he did today.”
Drake Johnson on Johnson: On his perforance … “I think just in general, I have been trying to take whatever they give me. If the defense gives me five yards, I will take five yards. If the defense gives me 30 yards, I will take 30 yards. Huge thanks to the O-line. … I was fortunate to go into the game.”
The team was fortunate that he did, too.
In 2009, the Wolverines won 36-33 with a great last moments TD pass to Martavious Odoms. On our way to the later press conference, Phil Callihan and I were walking across near the north end zone net just before the end of the game. Callihan yelled, “He is open” and indeed he was. Nice throw and nice catch, and oh so timely, as it secured another Wolverine victory.
But the Grand Daddy of all spectacular winning TD catches and runs against the Hoosiers came in 1979 with the famous John Wangler pass to Anthony Carter. Trailing, this TD catch and run resulted in an unbelievable 27-21 Wolverine victory.
M got their final possession of the ball at their own 22, with 51 seconds left. They moved it to the Hoosier 45. With six ticks left, Carter caught it at the twenty, put a hand on the ground to maintain balance, and began to windmill those skinny legs. No one could catch him. It was unbelievable, and our famed Bob Ufer was nearly apoplectic as Carter scored.
BRIEF GAME RECAP
M won the toss, deferred, and kicked. Indiana punted. M controlled the ball with a 12-yard rush by De’Veon Smith, and a 34-yard reception by Amara Darboh, plus some short passes, enabled a 35-yard Wile FG to put M ahead 3 zip.
M’s Jake Ryan punched out the ball from Hoosier Coleman, and M’s Brian Mone recovered it at the Indiana 27-yard line. Finally the defense had produced a TO favoring the Wolverines. Gardner scrambled, ran just short of the LOS and flipped the ball to the alert TE Keith Heitzman for a 6-yard TD. The call of TD stood. M led 10 to zip going into the second quarter.
Michigan rumbled 79-yards on 9 plays in the second quarter. Drake Johnson wheeled for 18-yards in the possession, and Gardner hit a 12-yard TD pass to Amara Darboh. A laser shot. The Wolverines upped their lead to 17 to zip to end the half. The Hoosiers threatened late in the second quarter, courtesy of a Gardner pass intercepted at the Indiana 49 and returned to the M 12-yard line. The defense held and their 25-yard field goal attempt bounced off the upright.
In the third, the Wolverines received, stalled, and Indiana hit a 38-yard FG. The Wolverines led 17 to 3. At a little over the four minute mark of the third, Indiana fumbled again courtesy of Jake Ryan, which Ryan Glasgow possessed at the Hoosier 20. Drake Johnson ran it in from the 10 on a very impressive run. M led 24 to 3 to end the third quarter.
A long M drive to start the quarter stalled. Matt Wile hit a 33-yard FG, and it was 27-3. M’s defense relaxed and Zander ran for 35-yards to power a drive to an Indiana TD. M led 27-10.
And out of bound KO, and an Indiana penalty advanced the Wolverines to the Indian 48. Drake Johnson took care of the rest with a 16-yard jaunt and a 32-yard TD run for a final of 34-10.
This was a much need win for the Wolverines, and now they need another at Northwestern. They need to show they can win away from home.
Lets stay tuned in and continue to Go Blue!