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Sep
25
2015

BYU storms the Big House

Michigan

Hello everyone. I’d like to welcome a new contributor to the AllSportsDiscussion.com team Dave the Barber ( @Res4Six ). He is the creator of http://reservations4six.com and is also writes at http://fsuinsiders.com. We’re glad to @Res4Six aboard, and look forward to his work! This is his first article.

BYU Storms The Big House
Saturday, September 26, 12:00 PM on ABC
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

BYU is extremely lucky that it isn’t coming to Ann Arbor 0-3. The Cougars won their first two games on Hail Marys.  Hail MARYS?  Yes, two of them, in back-to-back games.  I had to check the Oxford dictionary to make sure that was the correct pluralization of the noun.  BYU has been so lucky I struggle to express it through syntax.  Sadly, after receiving God’s gift of a 2-0 record, the Cougars failed to row away from the rocks and crashed their dingy into the Rose Bowl turf, losing to UCLA 24-23.  It was however, a hard fought loss, and the Cougars shut down Freshman phoneme Josh Rosen, giving up a mere 106 yards on 11 for 23 passing, intercepting him 3 times, and ceding a lone TD.

Too bad they were shredded for 219 yards on the ground via nineteen carries by Paul Perkins.  If you punch up the math you will ascertain that Perkins averaged almost 8.5 yards a carry.  The national average for all ball carriers is around 5 yards per carry so 8.5 is outlier data.  Giving up outlier numbers to a top ten team will get you beat on most nights, and Saturday was not an exception to that general rule.  Now BYU has to test their luck in front of 110,000 rabid Michigan fans, super charged with hope, now Jim Harbaugh is at the helm of their proud program.

MICHIGAN

Michigan lost its first game of the Harbaugh era to the Utah Utes, 24-17. It was said, by me, that Michigan’s defense is good enough to keep them in any game this year but the offense is bad enough to lose them all. In the loss to the Utes, the offense turned the ball over 3 times courtesy of QB Jake Rudock and the three interceptions he threw. That was a game that the defense played well enough to keep them in, but the offense played bad enough to lose.

Harbaugh’s decision to throw the ball 43 times while only calling 29 run plays against Utah contributed significantly to Michigan’s loss.  The Wolverines’ largest deficit was 14 points when they trailed the Utes 17-3 in the third quarter. Up to that point, Jim called 26 passes to 16 running plays up until Michigan scored its first TD on a 75 YARD TD drive, spanned 5:03, featured 6 runs and 6 passes. That drive ended with a 19 yard TD pass Rudock forced into double coverage that tight end Jake Butt miraculously snagged out of the hands of tragedy.  That lucky pitch and catch brought the deficit to 17-10, late in the third. The Wolverine’s achieved good rhythm and balance on that drive and it seemed they had found their flow. Unfortunately, after a missed Utah FG gave Michigan’s offense a chance to tie, Rudock threw an ill-advised pass into the flats  that cornerback Justin Thomas snatched up  and ran back for six. Rudock’s mistake made the score 24-10 with 8 minutes left in the game, effectively sealing his team’s fate.

In three games thus far, Rudock has 5 interceptions and 3 touchdowns, 582 yards passing for an average of 6.4 yards, and a 65% completion percentage. Those numbers don’t conjure memories of John Navarre, in fact, they’re pretty bad and his pick six in the Utah game turned out to be the difference in a 24-17 loss.  Since that loss, Rudock has done a better job limiting turnovers and directing the offense in two straight wins but still turned the ball over twice while only throwing for one score, on a 5-yard swing past o his RB, Deveon Smith. Nonetheless, Harbaugh has told reporters that he’s firm in his commitment to starting Rudock behind center, as he cited the wide margin by which Rudock defeated Shane Morris in the Spring QB battle. To think that Rudock won the spring competition by a wide margin begs the question, exactly how bad is Shane Morris? In fairness to Rudock, he has done enough to guide Michigan to two straight wins, and the Utah loss was his first game with his new teammates.

Michigan’s loss to Utah wasn’t in vain either, it was a trail by fire, that forged the Wolverines identity. Harbaugh has adjusted his attack and it appears he has taken Michigan back to their roots as a smash-mouth, run-first team, with a bunch of colossal road graders opening up gaping holes for large, harding running tail backs.  Michigan needs its QB to simply limit turnovers, and convert short, drive sustaining third down throws. Over the past two games, the offensive line has looked great , opening big lanes between the tackles, setting the edge, and giving Rudock clean pockets in which to operate. If Rudock is allowed to operate through high percentage passes and check downs, Michigan’s defense and ground game can win them at least seven games this year and possibly pull a few upsets.  This is what Harbaugh has been able to do over the past two games:

Against Oregon State, Michigan ran the ball 48 times while attempting 26 passes, and 39 runs to 25 passes against UNLV.

The Wolverines won both of those games by a combined score of 63-14.  This week’s opponent, BYU, will be a much tougher task for the Michigan offensive line but over the past two weeks they have improved and seem up to the tough challenge BYU will offer.

BYU

This team has been good to me so far. The BYU Cougars have given me a season’s worth of inspiration and subject matter material in two games and look, here I am again.  They’re a resilient group of strong hearted young men that don’t rattle easy and shoot until the last round is spent, then they come with bayonets.

After they lost starting QB Tysom Hill, again, to a season ending injury in the first game of the season, the Cougars have persevered with a 2-1recond in three tough games and almost upsetting UCLA at home last weekend. Those unfamiliar with BYU may not understand how big of a deal it was to lose Hill for the season, for a second straight year.  Hill is revered by his team, coaches, and the folks in Provo, Utah the same way Tim Tebow is in Gainesville, Florida.  Many teams would crumble after losing their beloved leader and QB for a second straight season, but no sir, not these kids.  BYU went right back out the following week and stunned a tough Boise State rival with gritty play and another last minute, desperation heave to the end zone.

Unfortunately, the miracles ceased against the 10th ranked UCLA Bruins, as the Cougars lost a hard fought battle in the Rose Bowl, 24-23.  With just under 6 minutes remaining in the game, BYU lead 23-17 after a 45-yard Trevor Sansom field goal. It seemed like another upset was about to go down, BYU had flustered Josh Rosen all night and one had to wonder what running back Paul Perkins had left in the tank after running for over 200 yards already. Enter Nate Starks, a 5-11, 210-pound Sophomore halfback from Vegas. His fresh legs stomped the Cougars into submission on the final drive with carries of 31, 22, and 4 yards respectively, the last of which provided the deciding touchdown.

There would be no last minute heroics last Saturday for Tanner Mangum, as he forced a bad pass into the coverage that was picked off by Myles Jack.

The Cougar’s gave a valiant, gritty effort for most of the game but succumbed to UCLA’s depth in the end, losing by one point, 24-23

What to Expect 

Michigan’s offensive line has played pissed off and violently in its last two games, much to the joy of Jim Harbaugh and the Maize and Blue faithful. With Harbaugh’s trust firmly placed in the running attack, Jake Rudock is being called on to merely take what the defense gives him. He has done that efficiently, completing 72% of his passes over the last two games. He still managed to throw two interceptions however, proving that Michigan is susceptible to turnovers if a team can penetrate the waves of blockers and slow the running backs thrown at them. That’s a tough nut to crack however, and could prove problematic for BYU as they were just trampled to death by UCLA for 296 yards on 38 carries  for an embarrassing, 7.78 Yards Per Carry.

For all of Tyler Magnum’s heart and “it factor,” he still makes poor decisions with the ball, evinced by the final play against UCLA. Mangum has three interceptions on the season and if you take away his two Hail Marys, he only has two passing touchdowns. BYU’s offense had  been subpar in the running department before handing the reigns to Adam Hine, who has racked up 242 yards rushing on 42 carries for a 5.8 YPC average over the last two weeks.  Look for BYU to ride Hine, while employing an offensive approach similar to Michigan’s.

BYU doesn’t seem to do one particular thing extremely well, but Bronco Mendenhall and his staff are great chess players that know how to make in-game adjustments and get the absolute maximum effort from their players.

I expect a brutal game in the Big House this Saturday afternoon, it will be ugly, yet entertaining, like Fantasia Barrino.

Michigan 24 – BYU 20  

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