Team 136 Game Recap: Utah Hands Michigan their 1st Loss

Utah 24 – Michigan 17 

The day we had been waiting for has come and gone. It didn’t end the way we hoped but there is nothing for Michigan to hang their head about. They thought they would be facing a very tough and experienced Utah team and that’s exactly what they got. Jim Harbaugh had his team in position to win, if not for a few very costly turnovers. He can take away plenty of positives from this game and build as the season goes on. For a team that lost 26-10 last year to the same team, with 17 returning starters, they already look improved.

Rushing Offense

The offensive line faced a tough task in its first game under new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno. The big guys up front did not back down from the challenge but fared much better in pass blocking than run blocking. It’s clear that the line will be the position to watch the most all season long. If they continue to struggle in the run game, Michigan will struggle.

Utah is no slouch in stopping the run game and showed it as no Michigan running back had a carry of more than seven yards. The Wolverine backs averaged 2.6 yards per carry, and that isn’t good enough to beat a team like Utah.

As for the most effective back, that was Deveon Smith. He started the game and received the most carries. Smith missed some gaping holes that may have netted big gains and changed the outcome of the game. Once again, he showed that his vision is not his strongest attribute but he did run hard and angry, breaking first and second tackle attempts.

The running back battle is far from over in the Wolverine backfield.

Passing Offense

via BTN.com

via BTN.com

The million dollar question was answered- Jake Rudock has won the quarterback job. Rudock completed 27 passes on 43 attempts and added two touchdowns. Rudock turned the ball over by tossing THREE HUGE interceptions. Although he threw three picks, it shows Rudock clearly won the job in camp. Harbaugh did the right thing in sticking with him and instilling confidence in the 5th year senior.

The wide receivers and tight ends were surprisingly the bright spot of the offense. Jake Butt was the focal point of the offense from the very beginning. Everyone in the building knew that the tight end was a large part of what Harbaugh likes to do offensively, but the Utah defense could not figure out how to stop Butt. Several tight ends got playing time in this one but Butt was clearly the number one target.

  • A few crucial play calls went to back up tight end AJ Williams that left fans scratching their heads. In Williams’ four years at Michigan, he has caught a total of six balls.
  • Freshman wide receiver Grant Perry played early and often along side Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson.
  • Darboh was impressive, finishing with eight receptions for 101 yards and a late touchdown. Perry never seemed to get on the same page with his quarterback.
  • All three interceptions Rudock threw were intended for Perry- nothing a few extra reps after practice and a conversation can’t fix.
  • Chesson seemed to beat the Utah defenders on the deep ball with ease, but Rudock could not hit him in stride. Rudock was rushed and had to release the ball a little earlier than he would have liked, just barely missing him for two big gains.
  • Brian Cole and Drake Harris received reps as well, though only Cole was targeted by Rudock (on a quick screen).

Rushing Defense

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah gained 129 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground Thursday night as Devontae Booker ran for 69 yards but that didn’t hurt the Wolverines as much as quarterback Travis Wilson did. It was Wilson running the read option that seemed to trip up the Wolverines. The four year starter scored a touchdown and ran for 53 yards on 12 carries. The Michigan defensive front was not pushed around as Chris Wormley and Will Henry were consistently in the backfield.

The problem was missed tackles.

Linebackers Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan consistently missed tackles and could not get off blocks to make the plays. Hard to believe James Ross was not inserted as Bolden and Morgan struggled with lateral quickness and drops in coverage. There are too many good linebackers and coaches on this team for this group not to improve.

Passing Defense

Jabrill Peppers was the player everyone wanted to see. He started at strong safety and played cornerback in nickel situations. Peppers struggled a bit early. Don’t forget, he is a redshirt freshman, playing a new position, in his first game of the season.

After the half, it was a completely different story.

Peppers got coached up and started making some unbelievable plays- expect him to only get better as the season progresses. Jourdan Lewis played his normal sticky like coverage and the rest of secondary was solid in never giving up the big play. Playing bump and run allowed Michigan’s cornerbacks to disrupt the timing of routes on the outside and forced Wilson to look to the middle of the field. Utah was also able to check down to their sure handed back Booker, who made seven catches on the night.

Special Teams

Michigan surprised everyone with their special teams play. Senior walk on Kenny Allen nailed a 29 yard field goal with ease in the first half. Outside of a long missed field goal by Allen, the special teams looked like one of the most improved groups. Aussie punter Blake O’Neill was as good as advertised, averaging 43.3 yard per punt on the night.

The return game showed a glimpse of what could be, as Peppers returned a late kickoff 36 yards. Other than that, Michigan secured the ball on fair catches and had solid play on the coverage units.

Next week…

Now they have something to build on, as Michigan faces an Oregon State team that is going through a similar change. Gary Andersen (former Wisconsin coach) brings his Beavers to Michigan Stadium.