Michigan beat the Air Force Academy 29-13 on Saturday. The win keeps the Wolverines perfect on the season, improving to 3-0 heading into the start of the Big Ten portion of their schedule next week at Purdue.
Here are the top three takeaways from the Michigan win over the Falcons.
1OFFENSE STILL STAGNANT
Michigan fans have been expecting this offense to come together and to start firing on all cylinders. It isn’t happening.
So far this season, the Wolverines have had 10 drives take them inside the red zone, including four instances against the Falcons. They have scored only one touchdown in those situations. One. Wilton Speight is this team’s quarterback, but it seems every week he doesn’t prove why. Against the Falcons he was just 14-of-23 for 169 yards, hardly the type of performance you would expect against a team they were favored to beat by two and a half touchdowns.
It wasn’t all Speight since his receivers did drop a couple relatively easy passes, but Speight’s progress has been slow at best. On the ground, Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon did rush for 153 yards on 28 carries, which is almost 5.5 yards per carry. That sounds impressive until you note that Isaac had a 32-yard run and Higdon broke off a 36-yard TD that sealed the game late. What that means, though, is that the rest of their runs averaged just 3.2 yards.
The Falcons defense controlled the line of scrimmage most of this game. Not a good sign for a Michigan team that has designs on finishing better than third in their division this year.
Emphasis on special here. Wolverines kicker Quinn Nordin tied the Michigan single-game record with five field goals against Air Force. He hit from 35, 26, 49, 29, and 36 yards. He has been Michigan’s most consistently good player this season. When is the last time, if ever, that could be said about a Michigan kicker?
In addition, early in the second half, Donovan Peoples-Jones weaved through the Falcons and tiptoed along the sideline for an exciting 79-yard punt return for Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. It was electric and could add a real spark to this Michigan team as the season goes on. Check this out:
— Michigan Moments (@UofMMoments) September 16, 2017
3TRIPLE OPTION TROUBLES
The Michigan defense is the biggest reason they started 2-0, but at times against the Falcons they looked like they couldn’t get out of their own way.
Air Force is a running team – period. They only threw nine passes all day and only completed one. Michigan knew Air Force would barely pass the ball but still allowed them to rush for 168 yards. What the Falcons like to do is use misdirection and blocking schemes to get guys into open space.
Their favorite play was an end-around to running back Tim McVay around the right side. They ran that play eight times, and it seemed almost every time they did, there wasn’t a Wolverine anywhere to be found. The defensive ends and linebackers were almost always caught inside as McVay ran past. They could not figure out a way to slow that play down. McVay ended the day with 62 yards on 11 carries. The only saving grace is that they didn’t run that play more.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Shouldn’t the Air Force Academy actually have some sort of aerial attack? Just saying.