So yeah, Michigan only beat Eastern by eleven points. But without the touchdown and two-point conversion at the end, it would have been a 19-point win, which would be one more point than the Buckeyes beat the Zips by in week two. So these things happen.
But that doesn’t mean everything’s rosy…or even Capital One-y. There are still issues on the field…and off.
When Michigan Was On Offense
The Wolverines opened up the offense a bit more this week, throwing the ball early and also throwing it downfield. Chad Henne finished 17-26 for 195 yards and threw one touchdown and two interceptions.
He was pressured throughout much of the game, and generally from the rebuilt right side of the line. The Wolverines started their fourth different right guard this season, sliding right tackle Stephen Schilling to guard and putting junior Mark Ortmann at right tackle. It was Ortmann’s first start, and it showed. He was frequently responsible for Henne getting hit, and one of those hits lead to an interception.
Schilling also had his problems, but that’s to be expected sliding down from tackle. The left side of the line was fine, per usual. This was the fifth different lineup to start on the offensive line in the Wolverines’ six games this year.
When Henne had time, he went to Adrian Arrington, who finished with six receptions for 102 yards and a 31-yard touchdown on a picture perfect pass into the endzone. Arrington also made some yards after the catch, which doesn’t really happen much with these receivers, aside from the quick screens, of course.
Mario Manningham was sitting this game out for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. We can probably assume that a message needed to be sent concerning his effort. I think it’s obvious that he’s playing out the string and already looking at the NFL. If he’s back at Michigan next year, it’s only because the feedback that he receives from the NFL is so poor.
We finally got an extended look at freshman receiver Junior Hemingway, and it was good. He finished with three catches for 33 yards and showed some promise. On the quick screen/hitch pass that is a Michigan staple, Hemingway didn’t hesitate when he caught the ball. He put his head down and went straight ahead. There is definitely something to work with here.
Henne didn’t have a bad game, though he did have a couple of bad interceptions. The most obvious was a throw down the middle of the field into double coverage that was intercepted at the goal line. I can’t blame him too much for the interception though, as he was probably so excited to throw the ball downfield that he couldn’t really process the situation properly. It was probably like hearing the ice cream truck as a child and as you attempt to run outside at full-speed, you fail to properly open the screen door and you slam into it and break the door. The excitement was probably too much for Henne. It’s understandable.
Michael Hart had an outstanding game. He played for most of three quarters and finished with 22 carries for 215 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns. It was his sixth-straight 100-yard rushing game, tying Jamie Morris’ Michigan record. Hart also had a 61-yard run on the day, which involved a lot of zigging and zagging, as his long runs tend to do. Obviously he’s not going to win many foot races, but I bet he’d win most obstacle courses.
Hart is now Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, with 4,655 yards. And if you add it all up, he’s done it in about three years. That’s pretty impressive.
Hart was also more involved in the passing game this week than he has been all season. It may have been a way to compensate for Michigan’s injuries at tight end. It is a welcome inclusion for this offense as Hart definitely adds another dimension to Henne’s game. Expect to see the screen plays become more frequent as we move into the second half of the season.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad offensive effort, but there were some drives that probably shouldn’t have stalled when they did. For the game, the Wolverines amassed 459 yards of total offense, which was their best total against an FBS opponent this season.
When Michigan Was On Defense
The Wolverines’ starting unit only gave up one touchdown drive on the day, and it came at the beginning of the third quarter when Eastern Michigan opened the half with an onside kick recovery. Aside from that, things went pretty good for the defense. They held Eastern to 304 yards of total offense, with 81 of those yards coming on the final drive.
The pass defense was very good and pretty aggressive. Morgan Trent was constantly jumping slants and breaking up the play. He was begging for a double move, which he has fallen victim to throughout the year, but Eastern never obliged. He no longer appears hesitant, but he needs to ease up on the constant route-jumping, or else he will get burned. It will be interesting to watch him this week against Purdue.
Donovan Warren did not get the start this week, as he sat for the first series for disciplinary reasons. I won’t even speculate as to what he did, but it was enough to warrant playing Charles Stewart instead of Warren, so you know it must have been pretty bad.
Warren just seems like he was born to be a cornerback. He’s undoubtedly brash and arrogant, which is a staple of the position. Warren did get called for a personal foul on a third quarter touchdown because he was giving quarterback Andy Schmitt “the business” with a forearm to the face and neck. No, it wasn’t enough to make baby Robert Reynolds cry. Warren clearly has some issues, but they seem to be part of his demeanor, and it seems to work for him.
Safety Brandent Englemon continues to improve and now when you watch the game and you see a big hit from the secondary, you know without seeing the jersey that it’s Englemon. He forced a fumble on a textbook tackle against Eastern and is turning into a bit of a playmaker. I’ll still need to see it against legitimate competition to buy in, though. Same goes for Jamar Adams. Both safeties did record interceptions this week.
The linebackers were even more dinged than the offensive line. John Thompson and Chris Graham both sat again this week with injuries and Obi Ezeh and Brandon Logan started in their places.
Ezeh started in the middle and led the team with nine tackles. Losing Thompson may have been a blessing because it’s becoming apparent that Ezeh is going to be a contributor. He started slowly this season, but he’s getting better every week. Once Michigan gets Thompson back, they will be able to rotate Ezeh in and perhaps even play them together occasionally.
Brandon Logan made his first start and finished second on the team with seven tackles. I’m not sure he always knows where he’s supposed to be and he misses tackles that he shouldn’t, but he seems to find his way into the play. I still don’t know what to make of him yet.
The defensive line was also dealing with some injuries this week. Tackle Will Johnson sat out. However, with Johnson out and the coaches deciding to get some youth on the field, we finally got to see the long-awaited debut of Marques Slocum. The academic challenges of Slocum have been well-documented. He’s taken more tests in order to be cleared than Lance Armstrong. He finished the with one tackle, but expect to see much more from him this season…provided he doesn’t get in trouble.
The Wolverines mostly went with three defensive ends (including Shawn Crable) and tackle Terrance Taylor, and rotated several players throughout.
Sophomore defensive lineman Brandon Graham had another sack and a half, giving him seven on the season. You can probably expect him to break James Hall’s Michigan all-time sack record of 26.5 around September 26, 2009, when the Hoosiers visit Ann Arbor.
Tim Jamison continues to be equally effective in the pass rush, as he recorded another half a sack, giving him 5.5 on the season. When you add in Shawn Crable, the Wolverines have three pass rushers that have the speed to get around anybody that steps in front of them. But defending the pass is only half the job; there are still plenty of issues defending the run.
Taking the three sacks out of the equation, Eastern Michigan gained 172 yards on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Of course, 42 of those yards did come from back-up quarterback Kyle McMahon on the final drive of the game, but he’s a back-up quarterback! And he was running free down the sideline like he was Antwaan Randle El. Granted, it was against the second-teamers and it means nothing with regard to the Ohio State game this year, but I thought it was still pretty telling about what the future may hold for the Wolverine defense.
Both quarterbacks ran well for Eastern Michigan, so this troublesome issue comes back to light for a week. Another thing worth mentioning is the success that draw plays are having against the Michigan defense—especially in the nickel. Perhaps it’s the product of having three pass-rushers on the defensive line and only one true run-stopper, but there is definitely an issue here.
Obviously, the run can catch a nickel defense off guard. But it will be interesting to see how the Wolverines do this weekend when they face a running game that was held to four yards rushing by the Buckeyes. Though in fairness, the Boilermakers did gain 35 yards on the ground (but lost 31 via sacks and whatnot.)
The other area that is noticeably available against this defense is the pass to the running back. Whether it’s a swing pass or a screen pass, the Wolverines have had some issues with this all season long.
The special teams continue to be…”special”. Where to begin?
This was about the fourth week where Michael Hart had to call a timeout or run out onto the field because there was an issue with the special teams. If you ask me, Hart should be named special teams coordinator, because he seems to be the only guy with a clue out there.
And the execution is lacking as well. Among the follies were the following: an 86-yard kickoff return by Eastern Michigan; a blocked extra point and subsequent two-point return of the blocked kick by Eastern Michigan; failure to recover one surprise onside kick to open the half; and failure to recover a non-surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter—though the kick was perfect; and Hart’s aforementioned timeout while lining up for the second onside kick.
But not all was bad on the special teams. The Wolverines tried out a new kicker in K.C. Lopata and he performed well, making both of his field goal attempts (31, 36).
Terrance Taylor also blocked an extra point, though nobody was able to scoop up the ball and return the two-point favor.
So What Does It All Mean?
Everything we know now, we knew before. There are players on defense that are getting better, this is obvious. But many of them had a long way to go and we don’t really know where they are in their journey right now. The next two weeks, however, will tell us a whole lot more.
Purdue and Illinois will test Michigan’s defense in all facets.
Will Michigan be able to stop Purdue’s running game and force Purdue to rely solely on the pass? Would that even be a good thing?
Can Michigan get outside fast enough to contain Illinois’ option game? Will the secondary stay with the receivers long enough to keep Juice Williams from finding them on broken plays?
If these questions are answered in Michigan’s favor, I think the offense should be able to score enough points to win.
Assuming, of course, that the kicking game doesn’t just give the points right back.
The Road To The Big One
Sept. 1 Appalachian State 34 - Michigan 32
Sept. 8 Oregon 39 - Michigan 7
Sept. 15 Michigan 38 - Notre Dame 0
Sept. 22 Michigan 14 - Penn State 9
Sept. 29 Michigan 28 - Northwestern 16
Oct. 6 Michigan 33 – Eastern Michigan 22
Oct. 13 Purdue at Michigan
Oct. 20 Michigan at Illinois
Oct. 27 Minnesota at Michigan
Nov. 3 Michigan at Michigan State
Nov. 10 Michigan at Wisconsin
Nov. 17 Ohio State at Michigan
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