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Big Ten Football: 10 B1G Observations from the Michigan Wolverines Week 2 Win
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12 Sep 2017 01:55 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Michigan Wolverines running back Ty Isaac races down the sideline. (Image Source: Getty Images)

Ann Arbor, MI—Ten thoughts from Week 2’s 36-14 win over Cincinnati:

1. Mistakes continue to hold back the offense as the Wolverines failed to win by the margin they should have for the second-straight week. Consistent execution hasn’t been there. “We can move the ball,” Jim Harbaugh said afterwards. “We had the feeling coming out of this game that we stopped ourselves, on occasion. That’s a challenge for our team.”

2. Quarterback Wilton Speight remains a question mark. His numbers—17 of 29, 221 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions—were solid, but Speight left points on the field. He missed some open targets and wasn’t as aggressive as he could have been attacking down the field. The junior was part of the lack of crisp execution, including a pair of unforced fumbles (one lost, one recovered for a seven-yard loss which probably cost them a touchdown). Despite that, Speight is the man as backup John O’Korn didn’t get into the game until it was time for the victory formation.

3. Even though Speight was inconsistent with his accuracy and they didn’t take too many shots down the field, the throw game flashed its big-play potential. On the opening drive, Michigan went over the top of the Cincinnati defense when Speight connected with sophomore Kekoa Crawford on a 43-yard touchdown pass. The offense then went on a slumber, scoring just three points over the next two-and-a-half quarters, when junior slot receiver Grant Perry took a short pass 33 yards to pay dirt, running away from one Cincy defender and splitting two others on his way to the end zone.

4. Senior Ty Isaacs appears to be the man at running back. He carried the ball 20 times against the Bearcats, more than doubling the carries Chris Evans (five) and Karan Higdon (four) had combined. He rewarded Harbaugh for his faith running hard up field with power, while flashing some explosiveness on his 53-yard run on his way to 133 rushing yards. “Ty had a heck of a game, a career high for him. He keeps ascending, so I feel good,” Harbaugh said. Isaacs averaged 6.7 yards per carry compared to just 3.2 by Higdon and 3.0 by Evans.

5. What’s up with Chris Evans? The sophomore was supposed to be the lead back this season and he had 22 carries against Florida in Week 1. Through two games, he’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, compared to 7.0 as a freshman. Interestingly, true freshman O’Maury Samuels got a late carry while Kareem Walker has yet to touch the football. Walker wasn’t dressed and Harbaugh later revealed that he has a “little knee” injury.

6. With the loss of both Jake Butt to the NFL Draft, as well as heir apparent Devin Asiasi to transfer, Michigan doesn’t have a clear-cut guy at tight end, but that doesn’t mean the position won’t be a big part of the passing offense. This is a Jim Harbaugh offense after all. Speight appears comfortable looking towards his tight ends when attacking the middle of the field, especially when trying to move the chains. Zach Gentry, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Sean McKeon combined for five receptions for 61 yards, including a 36-yard grab by Gentry.

7. The offensive line played well. They opened up holes for Isaac and protected Speight. On 30 drop backs, Speight had time to throw, was rarely hurried, and was sacked just once. Granted it was against Cincinnati.

8. You don’t want to get Rashan Gary angry. In the fourth quarter, the sophomore was flagged for roughing the passer with targeting. While the targeting penalty was reversed, the roughing the passer stood, and Gary was motivated. He responded by crushing Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore two plays later, resulting in the loudest cheer from the Big House crowd of the game.

9. Junior Tyree Kinnel and sophomore Khaleke Hudson are playmakers who are always around the ball. From his safety position, Kinnel recorded a team-high nine tackles to go along with a sack and an interception return for a touchdown to earn B1G Defensive Player of the Week honors. Meanwhile Hudson, doing his best Jabrill Peppers impersonation at Viper, came away with two sacks among his six stops proving to be a very effective blitzer.

10. There are growing pains with true freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones. On Cincinnati’s first punt the he allowed a punt he should have caught to bounce. Fortunately for the Wolverines they fell on it but they weren’t as lucky the second time around when the punt hit a blocker and was recovered by the Bearcats at the Michigan 38-yard line to set up Cincy’s first TD to make it 14-7 and potentially press the breaks on a bigger blowout. “The decision to not catch the ball was coming too late and allowed too many guys to come around the ball,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have to keep coaching that up. Guys doing it the first time, you have to come off blocking your man as you get closer to the return … you’ve got to find the returner, and it’s not easy to do.” Grant Perry handled the punt return duties in the second half with three fair catches. Peoples-Jones had one touch on offense—a 44-yard run—showing exactly why Harbaugh wants to get the ball in his hands.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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