The following is the next in a series of fictional game stories predicting the outcome of Michigan’s 2017 football season.
Wolverines ground Air Force
Michigan running game sets tone for offensive explosion
Ann Arbor, Mich. – For the second consecutive week, Michigan rushed for over 300 yards. But this time its passing game finally showed up as well.
The No. 9 Wolverines took advantage of a rebuilding Air Force defense, to amass nearly 600 yards of total offense in a 55-21 rout at Michigan Stadium. Quarterback Wilton Speight easily had his best game of the season, efficiently completing 14-of-18 passes and three touchdowns.
“We had the play-action game rolling and used that to hit some big plays down the field,” Speight said.
Indeed, both of Michigan’s prized freshmen wide receivers – Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones – each nabbed their first career touchdown catches on big plays via the play-action pass.
“That’s hopefully going to be the first of many for those two,” Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “But the play-action game only works when you’ve been running the football like we did.”
To that end, Chris Evans had his second consecutive 100-yard effort to again pace a balanced and devastating Michigan rushing attack. It’s the first time the Wolverines have eclipsed the 300-yard rushing barrier in back-to-back games in the 21st century.
“Our offensive line is really playing well right now,” Michigan left tackle Mason Cole said. “Guys have accepted their roles and we’re playing physical. But I’m also warning the young guys we haven’t started Big Ten play yet, so we need to keep improving.”
In fact, the Wolverines open conference play next week at Purdue for their first visit to Ross-Ade Stadium since 2012. The Boilermakers are off to a 1-2 start under rookie head coach Jeff Brohm.
“That’s a tough turnaround for our young defense, to go from a triple-option to an air raid in one week,” Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said. “And you saw today some of young guys got out of position a little bit. I can’t remember the last time we gave up three rushing touchdowns in a game around here.”
The reason Brown can’t remember, is because it’s only happened once since he became Michigan’s defensive coordinator. And it took Ohio State double overtime to do it last year.
“Coaches did a great job of prepping us for what Air Force was going to do, and for the most part we did alright,” said Michigan linebacker Mike McCray, who finished with four tackles-for-loss. “We just had a couple lapses here and there they took advantage of. But thankfully our offense really stepped it up (Saturday).”
Should the Wolverines prevail in West Lafayette next week, and they will be a big favorite to do so, that would make Harbaugh’s record 24-6 for his first 30 games at Michigan. That would be the best 30-game start for a Michigan football since Gary Moeller started 24-5-1 a quarter century ago.
“I honestly wouldn’t have even known that unless you guys told me,” Harbaugh said. “Gary was a great coach, and a tremendous offensive innovator. He was also an outstanding defensive coordinator when I played here, so I’d be honored to be in his company.”