Michigan Dominant In Tune Up For Ohio State
Michigan Blows Past Indiana 34-3
Armageddon Remains Scheduled For November 18, 2006
After coming out flat against an overmatched Ball State team Michigan hung on for dear life to capture its 10th victory. Tears were shed. Anger was vented. A drop in the rankings was penned by a couple of blogger/writer/commentators. A week of intense practice followed.
Then the dismantling of Indiana occurred.
Spurred on by the indignation of allowing Ball State to even sniff an upset, Michigan throttled Indiana on Saturday. Saturday the Wolverines looked like the team we've come to expect them to be. Dominant. Angry. Nasty. Freakytalentedandproudofit.
Ever since the Michigan State game, Michigan fans have been clamoring for that same team to reappear on the field turf on Saturdays. There were glimpses of that team against Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Ball State, but never a full showing. There were wins, but none of them were "dominant".
Then the dismantling of Indiana occurred.
Offensively, Michigan revved its engine in anticipation of Saturday's showdown. Michigan racked up 376 yards in total offense, most of it coming before the end of the third quarter. Michigan went deep. Michigan went short. They pounded the ball at Indiana. Mike Hart and Jerome Jackson each picked up a TD and Chad Henne threw for two himself. Rather than sputtering by playing down to an inferior opponent, Michigan slammed down the accelerator and blew past Indiana's secondary.
Steve Breaston finally had the breakout game we've all been waiting for. Breaston caught only three passes but racked up 103 receiving yards and a TD on a 62 yard bomb from Henne. Blowing past his covering corner, Breaston reeled in Henne's 40 yard bomb over the outstretched arms of Indiana's safety and jogged into the end zone for the last 20 yards. That was Steve's first TD reception of the year. It was also the second longest TD pass Michigan has thrown all season. For Steve and the Michigan faithful there was no better time to demonstrate that he is a legitimate deep threat than against Indiana.
Adding to his banner day, Breaston finally broke off a punt return for a TD. Retreating to his 18, Breaston split the first two gunners in the middle of the field, Breaston took a 45 degree angle to the right side of the field, made a momentary stutter to freeze the punter, and threw it into an extra gear he seemed to be saving for that moment to simply out run the rest of Indiana's punt coverage into the end zone. It was Steve's first return for a TD all year.
The rest of Michigan's receiving crew was back in action for this tune up as well. Mike Massey and Tyler Ecker made their glorious returns to the field, with Ecker hauling in a 22 yard completion to set up a first down deep in Indiana territory. Mario Manningham was back catching a pair of passes. Finally, Adrian Arrington pulled in a pair of catches with one resulting in a TD.
The only blemish on Michigan's offensive performance was the goal line interception Chad Henne tossed. Other than that, the Junior QB was on the money all day. Connecting with six different receivers, Henne went 12-16 with two TDs and an INT. For the most part, Henne was dead on.
On the defensive side of the ball Michigan only allowed Indiana total 131 yards. The Defensive line spent the entire afternoon in Indiana's backfield. Poor Kellen Lewis was thumped almost every time he went back to pass as the Wolverines registered 5 sacks on a highly mobile QB. David Harris continued his monster season by sacking Lewis once, registering 2 TFL, and piling up a game high 11 tackles (9 of them solo). Tim Jamison feasted on the Indiana line, getting to Lewis twice himself. The passing game for Indiana was almost non-existent. Michigan registered 6 pass breakups, with half of those belonging to Leon Hall. Lewis was able to throw for only 105 yards, going 16 of 33 with his longest completion being for 12 yards. This is the same QB who tossed five TDs on Michigan State earlier this year.
Crucially, the Wolverines kept Indiana's run game in check too. Indiana's running back by committee gained only 20 yards on 9 carries. The only positive rushing yards really came from Lewis who gained 37 yards on designed runs and scrambles, but lost most of that to sack yardage. With Michigan preparing for the highly mobile Troy Smith, keeping a fleet of feet QB like Lewis in check was a heartening result.
After pouring over the statistics, and analyzing every little detail, we are still left with a single question: What does this tell us?
The answer is, "very little."
Michigan finally clicked against a thoroughly overmatched opponent. Will they have as much access to Troy Smith as Kellen Lewis? Probably not. OSU has one of the better offensive lines in the country. Keep in mind that Texas, who has a pretty good defense of their own, gave up 24 points and while registering 3 sacks. More importantly, those sacks were the only TFL Texas registered that game. That means the majority of the game was played on the Texas defense side of the line. OSU is first in sack prevention, 1 sack ahead of Michigan. Michigan leads the conference in sacks with 41, 6 ahead of second place PSU. Michigan is second in scoring defense and turnover margin. More on this Thursday.
Michigan put up 34 points. Will they do the same against the Buckeyes? Who knows? Michigan's score 17 points twice this year (Penn State and Northwestern!?) and 20 points once (Iowa). All three teams stacked the run and we ran right at them anyway. When we've gone airborne, 30 points seems to be the norm. The points in this game will depend on how the Buckeyes play the line. Also keep in mind the best defenses we've played are Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa. We put 28 on Wisconsin, but didn't bury PSU or Iowa. We went vertical on Wisconsin but didn't on the other two. We'll want to go vertical, but OSU leads the conference in interceptions. Still We'll have three legitimate wideouts and two deadly tight ends to throw to all day. Michigan will move the ball, how many points they score will depend on our defense and theirs.
What we do know is what Michigan is capable of when it comes out focused. We saw the same Michigan team on Saturday against Indiana that we saw against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. We know this is a determined team. We know this is a team that will never give up. We know this team will give us everything they have and compete until the final down is played.
That knowledge will help us all prepare for November 18.
Photos courtesy of UM Photo Services