A New Perspective

Michigan defeats ECU 30-3 to open the 2023 season

Photo: Brad Muckenthaler

I know...I'm waaayy late on my ECU game column. I don't really have a great excuse other than real life sometimes gets in the way – what can you do? But, I finally had some time to sit at my keyboard and put some thoughts together about Michigan's opening game 30-3 victory over the Pirates of East Carolina. 

First and foremost, let's get the biggest news out of the way...I wasn't in the pressbox for this game. New for 2023, I will be photographing the bulk of Michigan's football schedule this year. Not sure how much travel I'll be able to do with real life and such, but I'm efforting to be at as many games as possible...plus whatever post-season destinations Michigan finds itself being invited to.

View my complete ECU photo gallery here!

So, about the ECU game. Here we go.

Overall...no complaints.

Spicy huh?

Well, I mean yeah, it'd be nice to score on every drive and put up stupid offensive numbers...but at the end of the day, this was generally a pretty lopsided game. Had Michigan been able to punch it in late in the 3rd quarter down by the goal line rather than fumbling the handoff on 4th down, this game would probably feel a little different in terms of comfortability.

Was ECU selling out to stop the run? Sure. Did Michigan respond with a ridiculously efficient passing attack led by a seasoned QB and stable of great receivers? They absolutely did. 

Photo: Brad Muckenthaler

JJ just looked...effortless. I mean, holy cow some of those throws. His 3rd touchdown throw, 15 yards to Roman Wilson in the 3rd quarter was pure beauty. 2022 JJ doesn't make that throw. He's clearly evolved his game...so much so that all 3 of his touchdowns passes came inside the redzone. That really wasn't happening at all last year.

And of course, Michigan was without their head coach and offensive coordinator. All in all, I'm not concerned with anything regarding Michigan's offense. Maybe some first-game rust along the OL in terms of run blocking, but I don't see that as being something to get concerned about right now. Blake and Donovan both looked great...just needed a little more room to maneuver thats all. As McCarthy becomes more lethal as a passer, that will only help the running game become what we all expect it to become.

Photo: Brad Muckenthaler

Defensively, a dominating performance.

Through 3 quarters (when the starters were in) Michigan allowed 0 points, 116 total yards (50 rush/66 pass) and only 5 first downs. They also got one takeaway, a great Mike Sainristil INT, which led to 7 points, and dominated ECU in pretty much every facet. Oddly, no sacks for the entire game, despite ECU QBs Mason Garcia and Alex Flinn who split snaps, being forced to scramble on almost every drop back – credit to both of their speed and pocket presence, I suppose.

Some new faces on special teams for Michigan this year. Grad transfer James Turner replaces NFL draft pick Jake Moody as Michigan's kicker. Kind of a so-so start, missing one extra point pretty badly and going 1 for 2 from 50 (good) and 52 (missed). Big shoes to fill for the Saline native for sure.

Also new this year is junior punter Tommy Doman who also handled kickoff duties. He looked pretty solid in his debut only having the punt twice, including one from the back of his own endzone on Michigan's brief opening drive.

Jury is still out on Jake Thaw returning punts, but didn't love it.

Photo: Brad Muckenthaler

On Harbaugh...

The "Free Harbaugh" shirt worn by JJ during pregame and the players holding up the 4 fingers on their second drive (probably something they wanted to do on their opening drive but they were stuck down by the goal line) I honestly didn't think much of it at the time. 

First off, I was too focused on taking photos and just trying to do it right to really think about the weight of what was going on. But even now, neither really bothers me. I don't see it as a strong protest towards the NCAA or even Michigan, who ultimately suspended Harbaugh for 3 games. I saw it then as I do now...players just showing support for their coach amid this rather turbulent time for the sport. I don't think there's anything truly sinister going on here. It's clear that the ground is shifting under the NCAA and some of the institutions of college football...and this latest beef the NCAA has with Jim Harbaugh is kind of like shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic, imo. Sooner or later (probably sooner) the NCAA will no longer exist as a governing body for top-tier college football. We know it, they know it. It's just a matter of time.

So "Free Harbaugh"? More like "Free College Football"

On Peacock...

Despite being on the sweltering sidelines all game, you don't really get much of a sense of the game the way you do watching from the stands or on TV. You're basically watching all the action through a camera viewfinder. And while it's great for photos, it's generally horrible for getting any sense of what's really happening. So, like many of you, I had to subscribe to Peacock to be able to really watch this one.

First off, the overall game presentation on Peacock was fine. I mean, it's still NBC and they're seasoned pros when it comes to airing a CFB broadcast. Mike Tirico was great as usual...but holy cow Chris Simms was terrible. He's an outspoken Harbaugh hater and that made listening to him try and to be unbiased pretty difficult. And sure, it's a streaming service, so dolling out the $6 for a month subscription was an annoyance...but not as annoying as the unskippable ads on the game replay, but whatever. Typical dumb streaming service behavior I suppose. It did give us at MBN HQ the opportunity to watch some stuff thats only on Peacock...so there ya go.

Photo: Brad Muckenthaler

On the scoreboards...

I feel pretty much the same as ya'll do. They're big, and the video looks great...but the real estate is not being utilized very well. The side columns of graphics take up way too much space and are poorly designed. The stats, in all-maize boxes, just looked weird to me. I couldn't decide if the 100+ degree heat on the sideline was getting to me or if it really was just confusing, but I had a hard time making sense of it at first. It took a minute to realize they were cycling through different stats, so it kept changing. Yeah, stop that!

I like the out-of-town scores on the right side, but we don't need to see "scores" from games that haven't started yet. 

The sound seemed weird at times...kind of going in and out. Could've been where I was standing though. I noticed it mainly in the first quarter when I was down in the north endzone. When I was down in the south endzone though, it sounded terrific.

So the 2023 season is off and running and Michigan gets a solid win against a decent opponent and no one got hurt. Now it's on to week 2 against the Rebels of UNLV.

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