The Wolverines returned to Ann Arbor last weekend after their dominating win against a ranked Florida team. A confident and hyped up young squad came running out the tunnel to touch the M Club banner as a 34.5-point favorite. While the Wolverines were the heavy favorite, it was not a perfect game, but it was a 36-14 win in front of 111,000+ spectators.
This win provides them with more film and plays to evaluate before Air Force comes to town. While fans in The Big House expressed their frustration on Saturday during the game, each position group also had some great plays.
Let’s take a closer look at each position unit and hand out grades.
Running Backs: A
Another solid performance by Ty Isaac with 133 yards on 20 carries to emerge as the leading back through two games. Chris Evans was the front runner heading into the season, so it’s exciting to see another player stepping up in the rotation. I am interested to see how these two will be used in upcoming games. Karan Higdon is the other to get serious playing time for now, while Kareem Walker is working through a knee injury.
Defensive Line: A-
The overall line did very well holding Cincinnati to 68 rushing yards, just eight yards over my prediction. This line looks quick through two weeks and creates havoc for any offensive line with all the weapons and blitz packages up Don Brown’s sleeve.
Rashan Gary had several crushing blows after getting off the line on consecutive plays. One of his hits initially was called targeting, which they changed after it was reviewed. Two plays later, he got to Hayden Moore again with no personal foul.
One thing I don't want to do though is piss off Rashan Gary. Two plays after the personal foul he does this (legally). pic.twitter.com/WjPmAvjA92— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpathITH) September 11, 2017
Defensive Backs/Secondary: A-
The unit as a whole had a great day in Ann Arbor. Tyree Kinnel’s performance earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors, which included nine total tackles, eight solo tackles, one sack and an interception for a touchdown.
Tyree Kinnel stepped up for Michigan. Pick-six and a sack. pic.twitter.com/gZqD9Ic3r1— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 9, 2017
Lavert Hill had a solid game as well with the second pick-six late in the game. Brandon Watson also had another great game overall. While this group was a huge question mark heading into the season, it’s great see through two games they have two touchdowns, matching their opponents total.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Grant Perry and Kekoa Crawford had a great game with each seeing the end zone in only eight receptions for 149 yards combined. What the first two games has shown us is they are relying on a committee, not just one receiver, tight end and kickoff/punt returner.
Something to watch for is who from the tight end group can emerge and build off a few nice performances. Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Sean McKeon are in the rotation, but Zach Gentry had an impressive performance with two catches for 41 yards. Gentry is getting more comfortable and mentioned that progression on Monday.
Zach Gentry says he really started to feel like a TE this past spring. Took some time. Feels good now.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 11, 2017
Jake Butt contributed so much to this offense last season, so guys like McKeon and Gentry are showing early signs of potential to develop into a similar tight end.
Devin Bush Jr. had a second consecutive dominating game, with Khaleke Hudson contributing, to cause issues all day for Cincinnati’s offense. There were a few players that under-performed like Mike McCray, who got beat and allowed Cincinnati to move down the field at times. Nothing major to be concerned about overall though. This group can continue to build off this win.
Offensive Line: B
The line overall did well with the pass protection, giving Speight time to throw. While the right side had a few issues in the opener against Florida, Michael Onwenu was consistent. This unit is allowing for success on the ground, and the potential of being great when it counts the most, to execute and control close games, is there. One thing lacking for years for Michigan was a run game that can help win games, so this may be a different year in terms of that.
It was close to last weeks performance for a few reasons, but I gave out a slightly higher grade because of smart plays overall and no interceptions. He made the right decisions with solid stats on paper with 17-of-25 for 221 yards, but also didn’t execute in the red zone with some overthrown balls and 1-of-2 recovered fumbles.
I believe the mechanics, foot work and delivery corrections can be fixed. He has the chance to improve over the next couple of games before playing Michigan State and critical Big Ten road games. They don’t have to rely solely on passing, because over the first two games it’s been a decent balance with a solid run game. The offense must also execute on offense going forward, as Drew Hallett discussed in his latest edition of Inside the Numbers.
Special Teams: C
Quinn Nordin had another solid performance in his first game at home, but the rest was fairly sloppy and needs improvement. Will Hart had an impressive 61-yard punt early in the game, then followed up with a few short kicks and a shank. There were also a few punt returns that lacked communication and hesitancy. Coach Harbaugh commented on Monday more about those errors.
Harbaugh says Peoples-Jones will be back there returning punts: 'He's not an error repeater.'— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 11, 2017
This was the first true home game as a starter in The Big House for many of these players coming off the high emotions of a win against Florida in the national spotlight. Nerves were there on Saturday but we know the potential of this young team, so Jim Harbaugh is asking for fans to be patient and trust the process.
Extra Grades Handed Out
Being there at The Big House for the season opener was exciting with perfect weather. I heard grumblings and boo’s when many expected a blowout. Fans shouldn’t hit the panic button yet and throw criticism at one of the youngest teams in the country which I recall is 2-0 and ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll.
Halftime Show: A++
Yes, the dancing dinosaur routine at halftime was amazing. While this usually will not be a grade handed out, it’s worth mentioning and was a crowd pleaser.
I've seen it all -- dancing T-Rexs??? pic.twitter.com/1cIuXpQUug— angelique (@chengelis) September 9, 2017
Put this situation in perspective: Michigan is 2-0 with one more non-conference test before traveling to Purdue. Sure, they have some things to focus on just like every team after week two, but the talent level that’s only lacking game experience should keep fans very optimistic about what can still happen this season.