|David Guralnick, Detroit News|
That's Michigan turnover ratio after last night. It should really be -3 because Justin Wilson's hail-mary that was picked off to end the first half really doesn't count. In a game where hype and expectations couldn't have been higher, this loss to bound to bring the Harbaugh hype back to earth.
At times the game had a very familiar feel to it. Like last year, Michigan outgained the Utes in total yardage only to let costly turnovers ruin the night. Both teams tallied 20 first downs. Michigan had a slightly better 3rd down percentage. Both were within 18 yards of each other in total offense. But as was the case in almost every game a year ago, turnovers killed Michigan.
Positive signs were there though...signs that this Michigan team is different from last year's. Despite missing a huge hole in the 4th quarter on the play before Rudock's pick-6 that could've tied the game up with a long touchdown run (a 14-point swing on those two plays) DeVeon Smith ran tough. His 47 yards on 17 carries won't look good in the box score, but he had some runs worthy of wanting to see more. Ty Isaac looked good at times as well.
Really the crux of this game boiled down to...what else, the offensive line. Maybe it was Utah's physicality up front, or maybe it was something deeper, but Michigan never seemed to get the push they needed to run the ball with any consistency. That, in turn led to more pressure on Rudock to make plays. I don't know if the game plan was to have Rudock throw 43 times last night, but given all we've been hearing about Michigan wanting to be a physical running team, that many reps probably wasn't ideal.
Pass protection was good, though. And Rudock seemed to find a wide open Darboh, Chesson and Butt with relative ease. The long over throws were frustrating, but the receivers were wide open and Drevno wasn't afraid to call those plays...which is encouraging. Hit one of those passes and this is a whole different game. I thought the decision to go for Butt in the endzone right after Rudock took that late hit out of bounds was genius, and a great pass and catch. No way that play gets called last year.
The defense looked as good as advertised. Booker is one of the best backs Michigan will face all year, and Travis Wilson is not a bad QB either. This was a true test for the Michigan defense. I thought the D-line, especially Wormley and Henry played well. The linebackers missed some assignments (and tackles). But the secondary showed up, especially in the second half when Peppers really hit his stride causing havoc for the Utes offense.
In almost every recap of the game, most columnists will say "same ole' Michigan". I disagree. My default position, especially this early in the season, is optimist. I'm not ready to cast Rudock or this team aside...not with this coaching staff and 3 win-able home games coming up. Utah is a tough team full of talented seniors (Wilson and Booker especially) and going on the road into a hostile stadium for a season opener with a brand new staff is not easy. And how long has it been since Michigan played well west of the Rocky Mountains? Given all those variables and essentially a -3 turnover ratio, to only walk away with a 7-point loss is actually encouraging.
The key now for Michigan is to learn from this game, stick together and keep looking ahead. With a nice 3-game home stretch coming up, Michigan has a great opportunity to show this isn't just the "same ole' Michigan".
Related MBN Content:
• Utah 24, Michigan 17