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Turning Points: Beating a Dead Horse Named Rudock

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This new Maize n Brew feature will reflect on critical plays - i.e. 'turning points' - from that week's Michigan game, for better or for worse. As you may have guessed, Jake Rudock will be mentioned in this one.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

By now, everyone has had a couple days to digest Thursday night's loss to the Utah Utes. While losing always sucks, this is not the end; it's only the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh-era. Remember, there were bright spots in Michigan's performance. The Harbaugh hype may have dissipated a bit by that fate-sealing third interception, but under his leadership, Team 136 will get better. I guaransheed it.

Now, this new Maize n Brew feature is meant to recap some of the 'turning points' from a given week's Michigan game. This will aim to include both obvious and overlooked plays. Plays that changed the momentum and others that maintained it. However, this week leans towards the 'obvious' side thanks to Jake Rudock's right arm swinging the momentum by slinging the pigskin.

1st Quarter

11:18 - 3rd and 9 Utah, Michigan 18-yard line

Prior to snapping the ball on this play, the Utes had yet to face a third down on their opening drive. They were making short work of Michigan's defense, driving 56 yards on six plays to start this series on Michigan's 19-yard line. An early 7-0 deficit seemed inevitable and stared the Wolverines in the face. But Michigan stuffed a pair of Devontae Booker rushes up the middle and looked to escape down only three.

On the play, Utah wideout Kenneth Scott runs a four-yard in route with cornerback Channing Stribling giving a five-yard cushion. As the ball leaves Utah quarterback Travis Wilson's hand, Stribling makes a swift break towards Scott, wraps him up as the ball arrives, and pulls him back towards the line of scrimmage. Re-watching the play at gamespeed, it almost looks like Stribling is going to blow right by Scott, giving him enough room to move the marker or even score a touchdown. However, when slowed down, you can see that Stribling keeps his eyes on Scott the whole time and makes a solid solo tackle to force a field goal.

What happens if Stribling misses the tackle and Utah ends up scoring a touchdown? Going down 7-0 on the opening drive of the season would have been tough for the Wolverines to overcome given their offensive struggles. Falling behind early can deflate a team just as easily as it can light a fire under a team's collective behind. All things considered, holding Utah to a field goal proved Michigan's defense could stop the Utes while keeping the game close early on, which ultimately swung the tide in the Wolverines direction.

Momentum Advantage: Michigan

5:54 - 3rd and 5 Michigan, Utah 21-yard line

This was Rudock's first interception, and I think the general consensus is that true freshman Grant Perry ran the wrong route. Even if Michigan doesn't convert on third down, Kenny Allen gets a shot at a makeable field goal. The Wolverines could have tied it up, but instead, a wasted opportunity.

Momentum Advantage: Utah

2nd Quarter

15:00 - 3rd and 8 Michigan, Utah 11-yard line

I didn't like this play when it happened live, and I don't like it anymore upon review. I have to imagine this screen pass to Brian Cole happened because of Rudock's earlier interception. In other words, this play was 'safe.' Well safe gets you a one-yard loss, a field goal, and no momentum.

Momentum Advantage: Utah

Rest of the 2nd Quarter

The second quarter finished out with a couple potential momentum-shifting plays: Jake Rudock's second interception and Utah's missed field goal. However, by halftime, I feel like all momentum had been nullified by mistakes and short drives by both teams. Even though Utah led on the scoreboard, it didn't really feel like they were winning. came of it.

3rd Quarter

10:06 - 3rd and 5 Michigan, Utah 26-yard line

Ignoring the pick-six for a second, this play stands out in my mind as the biggest turning point of the game. Michigan had a prime chance to take the reins since they received the second half kickoff, and for five minutes, it looked like they were going to do just that. Until this play. Rudock didn't lead wideout Amara Darboh with the pass, and it was probably a hair too low. After the overturned third-down conversion, Kenny Allen missed wide right on a 44-yard field goal, and Utah responded with a 10 play, 74-yard drive to go up 17-3. Hindsight 20/20, we go for it on 4th down.

Momentum Advantage: Utah

00:53 - 1st and 10 Michigan, Utah 19-yard line

Momentum Advantage: Jake Butt Michigan

4th Quarter

8:10 - 3rd and 3 Michigan, Utah 48-yard line

Imagine a sequence of events: Buttdown. Missed Utah field goal. Michigan ball in Utah territory. Down seven points with a little over eight minutes remaining, what's the worst that could happen? If Michigan fails to convert on third down, they try to pin Utah deep and get the ball back. They still have two timeouts. There's plenty of time. But that doesn't even matter, because they're going to gain three yards, move the sticks, and tie it up. Everything's going to be fine. HARBAUGH!

Wrong: Rudock pick-six. Game over.

Momentum Advantage: Utah