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Turning Points: Michigan uses offense and defense to shift momentum versus Cincinnati

There were multiple moments during the week two contest with Michigan-Cincinnati where things got uneasy for the Wolverines. Two key possessions on offense and defense changed the game.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the blowout that many expected in Michigan’s home opener, but the now ranked No.7 Wolverines were able to secure the 36-14 victory over Cincinnati this past Saturday.

In the end, the score looked like Michigan blew out the Bearcats with ease, but the score wasn't indicative of how the game really played out. There was many moments during this contest where Cincinnati was within a score of taking the lead or tying the game.

Michigan’s defense was once again stout for the most part, only allowing one real touchdown drive to open the second half. The offense and special teams made a lot of mistakes that kept Cincinnati in the game.

With all of that being said, both sides of the ball had moments that changed this game for the Wolverines. Here’s a look at the turning points of the game.

The Michigan defense keeps momentum

The opening possession of the game for the Michigan offense resulted in a Kekoa Crawford touchdown bombed 43 yards Wilton Speight, seeming to set the tone early.

Then just about midway through the first quarter, Tyree Kinnel was in the right place at the right time to intercept Bearcat quarterback Hayden Moore on a pass way over his intended target, and the result was a 28-yard runback score.

The score put Michigan ahead 14-0, and everything seemed to be right for Michigan as they were getting closer to running away with the game.

Mike Boone and company had other ideas. He responded with a touchdown run of his own after a key punt return error from Benjamin St. Juste and Donovan Peoples-Jones, tightening things up at 14-7.

After a 28-yard field goal from Quinn Nordin in the second quarter, the score was only 17-7 heading into halftime. That's when the Bearcats really started to make the fans at Michigan stadium become restless.

Moore was able to cap off an impressive 10-play, 85-yard drive with a touchdown pass Kahlil Lewis from 10 yards out. The score was made uncomfortably close to the favored team at 17-14.

This leads to why the Interception return for a touchdown from Kinnel was a changing point in this game. If not for that touchdown, Michigan had only scored 10 points on offense. This would've meant that the touchdown from Cincinnati to open the second half would've given the Bearcats the lead.

Instead, Michigan had the 3-point lead and could still work on offense without as much pressure on their back to have to form a comeback. That pick-six may have saved Michigan a real interesting finish and possibly a loss.

Kinnel later said that it didn't make them get nervous and they just handled what they could control.

"We just stayed calm," Kinnel told Mlive. "I don't think there was any pressure at all. We believe in our offense. We just try and stay together as a group and play for each other. We can only control what we can control. We just came out and kept going and tried to fight our way through it."

The game securing touchdown

As the game started to build more tension for the home team, Michigan needed something to shift the momentum back in their favor and take away the uneasy feeling in the stadium.

A few drives went by where neither team could gain any ground on each other in the third quarter, and a close game in the fourth would have truly put the game up for grabs.

Then Speight and the Michigan offense made the statement they had been searching for all afternoon.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan started a drive with just over five minutes left before the final quarter. It started with a huge completion from Speight to Zach Gentry for 36 yards, moving the Wolverines into Bearcat territory.

Then after another completion from Speight and a run from Karan Higdon that led to another first down, Michigan was just outside the red zone in desperate need of a touchdown.

Wide Receiver Grant Perry came on a crossing route over the middle and Speight delivered a perfect pass in stride to allow Perry to split the wide open seam up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown.

It took a lot of the pressure off Michigan’s offensive players shoulders and the game never got back within one-score after that. Michigan would go on to roll and beat Cincinnati in cruise control for the remainder of regulation.

In the end, Michigan got what was most important to them — a win and avoiding an embarrassment at home to kick-off the year.

Michigan will now stay in Ann Arbor for its next game against Air Force. Kick-off will be at noon on Saturday and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.