Okay, so Thursday night was pretty rough. Let's not get all bent out of shape, though. All of us saw that there are a couple areas that need some improvement: QB and RB. But, there were also some bright spots and wonderful performances during the game. Here are the game balls:
Offensive Game Balls
Amarah Darboh and Jake Butt
Darboh was impressive--eight receptions for 101 yards (12.6 avg.) and 1 touchdown, while Jake Butt was clearly Jake Rudock's favorite early in the game. Butt finished the night with a Darboh-matching eight receptions, 93 yards, and 1 TD. Single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage--it didn't matter; these guys were going to catch the ball for positive yardage. Utah knew the ball was going to them, but there was little they could do to stop it.
Yeah, can you believe it?! Although the run game was a 2014-bad 76 yards for a 2.6 per attempt average, the most impressive thing I saw Thursday night was that Jake Rudock was able to stand upright for the entire game. He felt some pressure at times, but he was never sacked and he didn't make any 34 yard rushes in the wrong direction. There were moments when the protection was lengthy and left Rudock with some breathing room. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the OL was perfect, but there was tremendous improvement over last season. Although an upright QB is the lowest expectation we should have as football fans, we have to take the "little" victories where and when we can. Now let's just hope that they can do enough to help the run game.
Defensive Game Ball
The Entire Unit
Jabril Peppers was one of the biggest recruits to hit Ann Arbor in ages, but injuries laid him low last season, so those high expectations had to wait until 2015. He may have started out slow in the first half, but the second half saw him gain focus and finish with 8 tackles...and he finally showed all Michigan fans just what he's capable of doing on the field when he's 100%. Chris Wormley was the other stand-out, tallying three TFL. He was an absolute monster on the field, and helped keep Utah's Devontae Booker to only 69 yards rushing. Booker's 2014 average was 116.3 yards per game, so I'm expecting some good things to continue for the Michigan rush defense.
There were some key stops earlier in the game, holding Utah to 3-and-out three times. Consider, too, that Utah had 337 yards on 70 plays, for a 4.8 per play average.
It's been one game. Be wary, but don't panic.