Michigan 29, Air Force 13

Michigan 29, Air Force 13


September 17, 2017

Donovan Peoples-Jones

Red zone woes. Michigan has scored touchdowns on just 1 of 10 opportunities inside the 20-yard line. They don’t have difference-makers on offense at quarterback or wide receiver, and running back Ty Isaac needs a crease to be at his best. For the past couple years, Michigan could bring in Jabrill Peppers as a Wildcat quarterback, running back, or slot guy, but they don’t have that guy right now. The offensive line needs to improve to help make that difference, and Wilton Speight needs to be better, too. Luckily, kicker Quinn Nordin has been pretty darn good in his first three games, and he’s actually tied for #1 nationally with 11 made field goals (on 13 attempts). That is good for Nordin, but it’s disappointing that Michigan has attempted 13 field goals, which is the most in the country.

Hit the jump for more on Saturday’s win.

A star emerging? Much of the tight end talk has been about Sean McKeon, who leads the tight ends with 5 receptions. However, I mentioned above that Michigan doesn’t have difference-makers at QB or WR, but note that I didn’t say that about tight end. The guy who has been catching my eye is Zach Gentry, who has 3 catches for 71 yards in the last two games. He’s the tight end who can get separation and run away from some people. McKeon has been getting a lot of snaps and is a superior blocker, but Gentry is the one who can make big plays.

Injury concerns. Freshman Tarik Black has looked like the best bet to have a traditional #1 receiver at Michigan, and he leads the team with 11 receptions and 149 yards. Unfortunately, he left the game late, and rumors popped up that he might have a broken bone in his foot. Hopefully he is healthy, because he seems like a favorite target of Wilton Speight’s. Perhaps more concerning was the injury to starting running back Ty Isaac, who left the game late after the training staff was looking at his rib/abdominal area. Isaac is averaging 7.1 yards/carry and 112 yards/game, while Chris Evans (3.7) and Karan Higdon (4.6) have dropped off since last season. Isaac also had a long touchdown run called back because of a Kekoa Crawford holding penalty, and he just barely stepped out of bounds on another big run. Out of the running backs, Isaac is the one guy who’s consistently making things happen.

The offensive line needs to get better. It’s too early for Nolan Ulizio to have earned a starting job at Michigan, and right guard Michael Onwenu isn’t getting the job done, either. I was happy when Michigan yanked Onwenu late to insert Jon Runyan, Jr. I said last week that the coaching staff should take a look at Runyan, and he finally got an opportunity. I think that should be the next step, but there needs to be a shakeup. Michigan isn’t getting a push up front and they’re whiffing on blocks. Once you’re three games into the season, if somebody isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do, it’s time to at least look at a change.

Donovan Peoples-Jones sighting. Peoples-Jones had the best game of his young career with 2 punt returns for 104 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown return. He also caught 2 passes for 52 yards. I could go for some more of a guy who averages 52 yards/punt return and 26 yards/catch. I know that’s not sustainable, but it’s nice to see a guy who can make big plays. He hasn’t been a big factor on offense so far, but maybe some of that talent can get harnessed more and more.

I’ve had about enough of Kekoa Crawford, too. Crawford has been underwhelming this season and dropped a key pass in this one that would have converted a long third down. He’s supposedly the #1 guy, but he has just 5 receptions for 86 yards and 1 touchdown through three games. Projected over a full season, that’s 20 catches for 344 yards. Crawford is a good blocker, so he shouldn’t be removed from the field altogether, but Michigan needs to look elsewhere for playmaking ability.

The defense was outstanding. I haven’t said much about the defense yet, maybe because it’s set the standard so high. We knew going in that Air Force’s offensive line wouldn’t be able to blocker Michigan’s front seven, and that was true except for a few times when the Falcons ran option outside to try to get to the young guys at corner and safety. Air Force completed just 1/7 passes (albeit for a 64-yard TD), and they averaged just 3.4 yards/carry.

Devin Bush, Jr. might be All-Big Ten. He won’t continue on this pace, but Bush is headed for a 100-tackle, 18-TFL, 14-sack season if he continues at this rate. The guy has been outstanding so far, and he’s just a true sophomore.

This is going to be a rough season. Michigan is 3-0 so far, and these young guys will get better. But Speight can’t create things for himself, and there aren’t enough playmakers on offense. Michigan might pull off an upset or two, but they’re going to have a very rough time against good defenses.

51 comments

  1. Lanknows
    Comments: 3460
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    “They don’t have difference-makers on offense at quarterback or wide receiver, and running back Ty Isaac needs a crease to be at his best”

    Are you saying Ty Isaac is a difference maker?

    Do other RBs not need a crease to be at their best?

    What did you think of Isaac’s running between the tackles yesterday, particularly on short-yardage situations?

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 17, 2017 at 11:25 AM

      LOL. When one guy is averaging 7.1 YPC and the next best guy is averaging 4.6, then yeah, I’d say he’s a difference-maker. 2.5 yards added onto every carry is a significant difference.

      Isaac didn’t run great between the tackles. He should have slammed in there harder, but Air Force seemed to have 2 guys in the hole every time Michigan tried to run inside, which is why I addressed the OL issues in the post. Nobody else is doing any better on inside runs. Karan Higdon had 12 carries for 64 yards, but his one big run bounced all the way to the sideline. I don’t know his stats on inside vs. outside runs, but he had 11 carries for 28 yards (about 2.5 yards/carry) before that one, so they must not have been very good, either.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 12:00 PM

        I agree that nobody is running well inside. I agree that’s on the OL.

        Isaac is probably our best overall back on most downs right now. He’s good on the edges – and those are the plays they have worked him on the last couple years. Evans has a couple of nice runs and has seen more than his share of poor blocking, but he’s not taken advantage of opportunities like Isaac and Higdon have. Higdon is supposedly one of our fastest backs but I don’t see it translate on the field.

        I like that they got Isaac a couple passes this game. Didn’t turn into much but they should keep trying. Making him a threat to get the ball remains a better strategy than having him block, but I think it’s contributing to the TEs staying into block. At some point they may have to weigh what it means on 3rd and long to have Gentry and Hill in, as opposed to Wheatley and Isaac. I think Gentry could be more effective.

        I think Isaac has more than enough track record to demonstrate the extent to which he is a difference-maker or not.

        They’re all fine. I don’t think any are special or “difference-makers” objectively speaking. These guys are still the guys who are Deveon Smith’s backups.

        Honestly in short yardage our best bet is either running the FB, QB, or a pass. It’s been that way for a couple years. We can’t count on out-executing anybody, even the Cincinnati’s and Air Forces of the world on a straight up run play in short-yardage. If they insist on handing it to a RB in short-yardage I’d rather see Higdon who seems more decisive and shiftier amongst the big guys than Isaac and stronger and more determined than Evans.

        • Comments: 137
          Joined: 9/15/2015
          ragingbull
          Sep 17, 2017 at 6:17 PM

          sadly that last paragraph is pretty accurate. hopefully they make some strides there but im not too optimistic – theyve faced some aggressive defenses so far (at least in regards to playing on their toes vs the run) but it should only get more difficult as they face better defenses and / or teams with stronger offenses (and many in tougher environments)

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3460
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 17, 2017 at 10:50 PM

          Florida might be the best D they play all year. We’ll see. OSU and Wisc won’t be a picnic either but they have some holes.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 12:01 PM

        One more Isaac question:

        Do you think he is significant part of the problem with the red zone issues?

        • Comments: 2172
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Sep 17, 2017 at 12:17 PM

          I think the whole offense (and the coaches) is to blame for the red zone issues. I can’t blame Isaac when, for example, he’s handed the ball and 3 Air Force players hit him almost as soon as he gets the ball.

          Personally, I think the issue arises from the fact that Michigan has good speed at receiver and is willing to throw downfield, so they can get defenses to back off in the middle of the field to open up tight ends and crossing routes underneath. When things get compacted and you can’t take the top off the defense, it requires the receivers and Speight to win one-on-one matchups, and they’re incapable of doing that. Speight’s version of a fade route is to throw it out of the back of the endzone where nobody can catch it. With the offense and the OL, Michigan needs to find a guy who can win some jump ball matchups (Peoples-Jones? Black? Gentry?), or they need to go five wide and get someone like McDoom, Perry, or Oliver Martin to win slant/pivot routes.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3460
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 17, 2017 at 12:28 PM

            Yes tougher sledding when given those tougher situations. I’ve said this often, and I agree Isaac isn’t to blame.

            BUT, I do think that 3rd and 1 carry where he stuttered in the backfield instead of charging ahead or cutting right was a problem. On 1st and 10 that’s defensible. On 3rd and 1 you need to be going forward. I thought that one was on Isaac.

            I don’t really get the point about winning jump balls, if your saying Speight can’t throw them effectively, it won’t matter. I do agree Speight’s touch on those has been bad this year. Thought it was alright last year.

            I think the biggest thing that’s happened in the red zone is a lot of uncreative play-calling and ineffective run game. The same issue you talked about for the pass game is an issue for the run game. Things get constrained in the red zone so those outside runs aren’t going to have the space and opportunity they might have at midfield.

            Anyway, I think it’ll get fixed. I’d bet anything we’re not going to get 1 TD in our next 10 red zone opportunities. But I’ve also see enough reasons to not expect going 8/10 either. I think when they get in there they need to just go 4 or 5 wide and look for the short-stuff and seek opportunities to sneak a run straight up the gut now and again out of spread personnel.

            • Comments: 2172
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Sep 17, 2017 at 12:33 PM

              “I don’t really get the point about winning jump balls, if your saying Speight can’t throw them effectively, it won’t matter.”

              I don’t get the point about talking about the run game. If you’re saying Michigan can’t block, it won’t matter.

              Like I said, it’s on the whole offense, and Wilton Speight is included. Throwing fades out of the back of the endzone is not a recipe for success.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3460
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 17, 2017 at 12:44 PM

              I’m saying don’t run on short downs. You’re saying throw fades to different people.

              Abandon ship vs rearrange the chairs.

              • Comments: 2172
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Sep 17, 2017 at 1:01 PM

                I mean, I didn’t say “throw fades to different people.” You’re trying to back me into a corner and pin down my one answer to “Throw fades to different people.” When you get inside the redzone, you get about 1-6 play calls, depending on whether you go for it on fourth down or if there are any penalties. There’s not one single answer to improving in the redzone. The whole offense has to get better – from running on short downs to hitting fades and anywhere in between. Against Air Force and Cincinnati, Michigan should be able to run on short downs, hit fads, and do those other things in between.

                The offense as a unit just isn’t getting the job done right now. It’s not just one fix.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3460
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Sep 17, 2017 at 1:35 PM

                Agree with the conclusion. I was responding to this part of your solution:

                “Michigan needs to find a guy who can win some jump ball matchups (Peoples-Jones? Black? Gentry?),”

                I don’t think that’s really part of the answer, especially with Black out. Not our personnel strength, not sustainable, etc.

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 3460
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:24 AM

    Devin Bush is special. I’m so impressed with him. There was a play yesterday where one of our DL was chasing after the QB and Bush just jetted past him like he was a WR.

    I scoffed at people suggesting our LB play would be better considering Gedeon was pretty good and Bush was a backup, but so far it seems to have come to be. Bush has been that good.

    We’ve had some memorable LBs here – Jake Ryan was force on the edge, Ian Gold was a blur, David Harris was consistently excellent, etc. etc. but Devin Bush is poised to be the most entertaining, if not the best.

    • Comments: 433
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:10 PM

      Devin Bush Jr. is special sideline to sideline. He is great at blitzing. I have yet to see him handle a downhill running team. I wouldn’t put him anywhere close to Harris or Gold. Talk to me after the Wisconsin and PSU games. I see him get pushed around inside when it gets crowded.

      What I think he excels at is cleaning up and needs some other guys doing the heavy lifting. Not saying Bush Jr. isn’t great at what he does. I remember Bush Sr. saying his son is a downhill lb’er. Yes he is and dang good at it too.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 12:20 PM

        PSU isn’t a downhill running team.

        But yeah, that’s going to be a litmus test for the entire defense, Bush included.

        If PSU’s strategy is to run over Bush (instead of exploiting our inexperienced secondary, picking on McCray in coverage, or getting the ball to Barkley in space)….by all means, please.

        MSU may try it. I don’t see any reason to think it’ll work. It’s not 1992 anymore.

        • Comments: 433
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          michymich
          Sep 17, 2017 at 2:53 PM

          I think you are selling Barkley and PSU short. They just don’t run wide the entire time. They will work the field and Barkley isn’t easy to tackle. A team that can do both and have some decent Oline are going to be able to neutralize the blitz which is going minimize Bush. Those bigger guys are going to be able to get ‘on him’ so to speak. Right now it seems like Brown has Bush running in space. See AF. I even picked that Bush would be the key. It was a great matchup for him. When things get bigger and more concentrated in the box then things will become more challenging.

          I am looking forward to a team that forces Don Brown to actually get out of that 3-3-5 and go to 4 and 5 dlinemen especially on 3rd and 1.

          Going to be interesting.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3460
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 17, 2017 at 3:32 PM

            I think you’re selling them short by calling them a downhill running team. Are they bigger in the box than Florida? Honest Q. Their TE is glorified WR.

            I think PSU can run effectively inside or out. Barkley is a fantastic player. Michigan has not had a RB like him in my lifetime.

            Last year they shut down PSU. I don’t think our D is as good this year, despite appearances thusfar.

            I do think our LBs are better than last year, which I didn’t 3 weeks ago. I have plenty of respect for PSU and worry about what they’ll do to our D – Bush isn’t one of those worries. If anything PSU is going to prevent Brown from playing 4-man lines. They’re not a smashmouth team.

            As I said, MSU will be a better test for your theory because they’re not as likely to be able to blow the top of our D or make big plays on the edges. They’ll probably try to run at/over Bush. I don’t think they’ll succeed. That’ll be more telling for the Wisconsin test.

            • Comments: 433
              Joined: 9/13/2015
              michymich
              Sep 17, 2017 at 5:28 PM

              First, can you show me where I said PSU is a downhill running team? I’ll give you a prize if you can show me. Your prize will be I will agree with your Speight assessment for a week.

              PSU can run inside the tackles unlike a team I follow. Barkley is tough to tackle and I can almost assure you that Brown is going to have to adjust when that PSU Oline with a quality rb sees 3 DL (winovich included) along with some linebackers trying to stop their offense.

              You are going to see 4 down lineman on a consistent basis in that game.Guaranteed.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3460
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 17, 2017 at 10:49 PM

              My bad on the downhill running thing. I assumed that’s what you meant when you said PSU would run over Bush.

              I think Brown will stick with what’s working.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 3460
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:43 AM

    Rough season? I disagree. I think we’re on track for 9-3 with a very decent chance at better. Speight’s a winner. I think his poise and composure will get us at least one upset W. Mistakes could cost us an upset loss too – but I think that concern about Speight is very overstated. When I look ahead on the schedule I don’t see anybody we’ve favored over who is much scarier than Air Force TBH… Minnesota? @Indiana?

    The OL must get fixed but at this point I don’t have much hope that it’s happening. Just hoping to get closer to decent. Swapping personnel is probably not going to be the answer. If Onwenu gets benched for good that’s trouble for the future. As with the call to bench DPJ as punt returner, I think you have to sometimes ride out the mistakes with young players. Pulling him for a series to teach a lesson might be a useful teaching tactic. Benching and replacing is another deal, IMO.

    Similar story for Crawford – who has been the biggest disappointment on the team in my eyes (with Hart coming in 2nd). He needs to be ceding some snaps to Perry, DPJ, and maybe give a shot to McDoom too. But as Thunder said he blocks well and clearly he is getting open pretty often too. Those are valuable traits. The issue is the WR skills – timing, awareness, strength – go and get that ball and bring it in. This is stuff that Hemingway and Gallon and Edwards and Walker had in spades. I don’t have a good sense if it can be taught or learned. For Crawford’s sake I hope so.

    Nordin’s been the most pleasant surprise on the team. What a luxury.

    • Comments: 433
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Sep 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM

      “Speight’s a winner. I think his poise and composure will get us at least one upset W. Mistakes could cost us an upset loss too – but I think that concern about Speight is very overstated.”

      Really? I don’t know what to say. You have got to be one of maybe 10 people outside of his immediate family who are in his fan club. Is Speight a winner or is he with a winning staff and team? I’ll give you this, Speight is mentally tough and has some good intangibles but your view that most of us are just overstating his inconsistency is laughable.

      What I see is a guy who is in a conference with less than great Big Ten qb’s who has the advantage on playing on a athletically superior team with a very good defense. However, when going up against a team who has similar talent and a very good qb then UM will be at a disadvantage.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 1:40 PM

        Yes I am in the minority.

        The record speaks for itself. 10-3 last year. 12-3 as a starter. It was all credit to everyone else? Why didn’t Rudock do better? Why isn’t O’Korn starting? Where are the golden children elite recruits?

        Compare Speights’ numbers game to game – he’s been consistent this year. Consistently mediocre.

        Up to you if you want to see that as a capital P problem, or a minor disappointment, or blip for a guy who was very solid a year ago.

        • Comments: 433
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          michymich
          Sep 17, 2017 at 2:07 PM

          I’ll go with consistently mediocre. Look LK. If Speight plays really well at Wisconsin and PSU regardless of the W/L then I will change my tune. I want him to succeed. I think there are some other variables in play here but there is no doubt about it, Speight hasn’t done anything to warrant a belief that he can be anything other than an average qb.

          I could probably come up with an easy 10 guys who I’d rather have at qb. In fact, I could come up with 25 rb’s I’d rather have than our current stable of backs. The point is not that it’s all the fault of Speight but that as a fan I want to win big and I don’t think Speight is going to get us there. I hope I am wrong.

          Here is a better way to put it. Based on our talent and our staff I see 9-3 now. A very good qb like Darnold or Okla qb would get us at 11-1. Having JOK at qb would get us at 8-4. It’s that I see Speight as a -2 vs. Darnold or a -3 vs. Jackson or a -1 vs. Rosen.

          If it was Speight on the bench vs. Gardner starting then I would prefer Speight who I see as a +1. That doesn’t mean I am satisfied with Speight it only means he is better than the option. Speight just happens to be on a team with the talent to do great and should be on a team that isn’t so talented where he is seen as one of many problems. Put the Clemson qb on this squad and UM has a legit change to make the playoff even with some other flaws. If a better qb then I would be focused solely on the run game and probably Drevno. This is how it works.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3460
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 17, 2017 at 3:38 PM

          Put the Alabama OL on this team they do better. Give us John Kelly or Saquan Barkley and we do better. Give us Calvin Ridley and we are better. Put Wisconsin’s TE on this team and we are better. The list goes on and on.

          QB matters a lot – it’s not only the thing. There are obvious and blatant issues on the OL. This is illustrated statistically, it is consistent with off-season expectations, and you can see it with the eye test.

          But everyone wants to hammer on the QB.The coach thinks it’s dumb. The players think it’s dumb. Some prominent pundits think it’s dumb. I think it’s dumb.The majority of fans feel differently and so do you – as is your right.

          • Comments: 433
            Joined: 9/13/2015
            michymich
            Sep 17, 2017 at 5:37 PM

            I love how you sort of skirt the issue. Your argument goes something like this. It’s not all on the qb. Yes, we agree. If Speight had a better OL and rb then he would do better. Yes, we agree. Speight is statistically as good as these other qb’s because of yards thrown, etc. No, we disagree.

            There may be some other reasons as I have said for his lack of red zone performance but you and the other Speight apologists want to dismiss all the negative stuff for team harmony. I would expect his teammates, coaches and team broadcasters and reporters to come to his defense for a variety of reasons including self interest. That doesn’t disguise what many long time fans see which is an inaccurate and on the whole average qb until improvement is made.

        • Umichjenks
          Comments: 17
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Umichjenks
          Sep 17, 2017 at 11:16 PM

          You are so mistaken. Speight is only 12-3 as a starter bc our defense and senior laden team last year carried his limp arm to victories.

          Name one big game he went out and won us the game? Please go look at his stats vs MSU (no tds), Wisconsin, PSU, OSU, FSU.

          In his last 6 games he has 9 turnovers, 3 pick sixes, 2 lost fumbles, 6 fumbles in total, ~53% passing, about 170 yds passing/game.

          Not all the offensive miscues are on him. Our OL sucks and our receivers haven’t gotten open or caught it when they are open.

          But here you are like JH himself making excuses for a 2nd yr starter who had been on campus for 3 yrs. This guy can’t even blow out Cincy and AF to get out back ups some PT.

          He never throws a receiver open, he throws late, he overthrows them in end zone by 6 feet, throws passes outside the hashes out of bounds.

          If you think he’s even mediocre I think you’re delusional.

          He’s the main reason we lost to Iowa, and OSU and FSU.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 1:43 PM

        And again – if Speight has gotten worse – IF – think for a minute if it’s more likely on him regressing as a player or if it’s more on new starters at all but 2 positions.

        • Comments: 433
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          michymich
          Sep 17, 2017 at 2:44 PM

          Or it could be that teams have enough tape on him and have adjusted their defensive schemes.

          I think it’s a combination of factors. He was throwing the ball more accurately against AF which is probably not entirely because of OLine performance.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3460
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 17, 2017 at 2:50 PM

            Yeah – that’s a fair point about D scheme. It’s a possibility.

            I think O experience matters. It’s at least part of the answer, if not most of it. Particularly early in the year.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3460
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 17, 2017 at 1:45 PM

        We’re all frustrated about the O. Speight is the face of the O. That doesn’t mean he deserves the bulk of the blame.

        Not seeing significant improvement from the QB is disappointing. That is a feeling we can and do have. Our feelings are not a legitimate reason to criticize Speight as a player.

  4. Comments: 920
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:47 AM

    Yeah, that was not a good drop from Crawford. The block in the back was bad too. We had a real good example of blockers in space, not bringing a nice play back on DPJ’s last .. I think .. punt return, when two guys … I’ve yet to check numbers, passed on a reasonably tough to resist block in the back. Crawford has been around long enough to not be doing dumb stuff like that.

    I’m guessing that Air Force’s DC and Don Brown could be buddies, at the very least, kindred spirits. Air Force came out fully intending to solve their personal disadvantage with aggression. They were running a lot of something that looked to me like the 53 swarm thing that used to be/maybe still is, a thing. They were bringing 6 much of the time, almost never less than 5. I think before this season is over they will have a top twenty D again, maybe top ten. I’m cutting slack for what looked to me to a very nice defense.

    I haven’t sat with this game yet, but just from sitting watching the game in a room full of whiny bitches, I thought the offense was nowhere near as horrible as the consensus opinion maintained I always laugh when some three jowled accountant in the corner starts talking about play calling. Among other things, Harbaugh tried to run them out of the box throwing downfield on first down. Air Force absolutely did not care, they were bringing it come hell or high water.

    On D, I was very impressed. Triple option teams hate going backwards and go to great lengths to avoid any losses … ever. there is no risk reward thinking at all when it comes to negative yards. We put over 40 negative yards on their QB alone. They have to be in shock watching yesterday’s film. I’m thinking that nobody on that staff has ever seen anything like that happening to an Air Force team.

    Looking forward to the every play offense thing as i forgot to watch Onwenu and would like to watch all the red zone snaps.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:02 PM

      Crawford has been on campus about 13 months.

      • Comments: 920
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Sep 17, 2017 at 2:34 PM

        Yup. Long enough.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:11 PM

      Air Force did bring a lot of heat. I don’t think their D is nearly as good as you say above though. Yardage suppressed by a ball-control clock-chew offense, but that doesn’t make their D a legit top 20. The advanced stats have them at 40 and 86 rank nationally last year. A wide split, reflecting their unique situation.

      I would not cut the O too much slack. We’ll see what Air Force (and Cinci for that matter) do going forward. Maybe they’re both better than they were last year.

      On D — this was a great performance. Totally dominant on the air (bust excepted) and highly effective on the ground too as reflected in the YPC. They got 3 big plays. Otherwise we dominated a tough team to prepare for. I think people have to be happy about that no matter how much of a hater-aide they drank/flows through their veins.

  5. Comments: 678
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:55 AM

    I think we have our playmaker in DPJ, he just needs to improve in “traditional,” “pro-style” WR skillets. Once he does, watch out!
    Agree on Gentry. He was open a few times, but somehow isn’t always seen (despite the size)

    As for Crawford, I just don’t see it, and never have. He can block? So can Mo Ways. The guy has speed and route-running, but his next big play will be his first. The pick6 should have been lower (or gone to Gentry for the 1st), but COULD have been caught by a playmaker. Yesterday’s opening pass was short, but COULD have been caught by a playmaker. Then there’s the 2-3 drops this season… Sucks if true about Black!

    QB may be harder to make an in-season switch, but I’m ready for a switch at RG, hoping something develops at RT, and waiting on DPJ to ascend at WR

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:16 PM

      Crawford’s not played well enough to be a #1 but this is needlessly harsh. He had a 43 yard TD literally last week. He’s been on campus barely a year. Mo Ways he’s not….

      Black dropped an easy one too. It happens. We have a lot of talent at WR (Crawford included) but there are going to be mistakes. Crawford’s blocking and ability to get open consistently – even against Florida DBs is certainly something to build on.

      • Comments: 2172
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Sep 17, 2017 at 12:23 PM

        What easy one did Black drop? The “back-shoulder out” that should have been intercepted? Not exactly as easy as Crawford’s that was perfectly thrown and where Crawford didn’t have a guy in his face.

        • Comments: 678
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Sep 17, 2017 at 12:30 PM

          You’re right. That WS held on too long, and then the ball floated. I was happy for an incompletion rather than the pick it could have been

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3460
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 17, 2017 at 12:34 PM

          1st Q against Florida, ~3 min left. 1st and 10, 2 plays before Speight-Black 46 yard TD.

          Yes, not as easy as Crawford’s. UF’s CB was on him. Still a routine catchable ball.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3460
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 17, 2017 at 12:38 PM

          6:22 here. black is open by a couple yards. ball is on target. bounces of him – no excuse.

          Not a critique of Black – 2 plays later he got open and Speight hit him deep.

          Just saying this stuff happens sometimes.

          The concern with Crawford is that he is getting targeted again and again and we aren’t getting much success from it. He’s got to win some of the 50/50 balls. Catching the easy ones is less of concern to me right now, despite the awful drop yesterday.

  6. Comments: 13
    Joined: 11/17/2015
    funkywolve
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:16 PM

    No Peppers on offense. Maybe it’s my memory but man, I don’t recall the Pepcat being verry effective after the first few games. In Pepper’s first two games where he touched the ball on offense he had 5 carries for 98 yds and 2 TDs. In the last 6 games he had 22 carries for 69 yds and 1 TD and 2 catches for 3 yds. One of the more frustrating items from last season was the coaching staff’s inability to be creative with Peppers on offense.

    Nice write up though. Really hoping Issac isn’t out for any time because for whatever reason he’s easily been the most effective back.

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:26 PM

      The Pepcat thing wasn’t effective for a long stretch, but the creativity wasn’t there and he also offered value when he wasn’t lined up as a QB.

  7. Comments: 1
    Joined: 9/17/2017
    nofunforfu
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:25 PM

    I agree for the most part on the offensive struggles. Speight has his ups and downs, but manages the team decently. However, one thing he has been struggling with all season is putting passes down the sideline or in the back of the end zone somewhere his receivers can make a play on it. We have tall receivers and TE’s however whenever he’s lofted a ball he can’t seem to put it within their rather large catching radius. I don’t know why he can’t manage to do this, but this is part of the the reason we are struggling to generate chunk plays. These young receivers certainly have work to do on running good routes, so these types of plays where size and athleticism are key right now.

  8. crazyjoedavola
    Comments: 174
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    crazyjoedavola
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:27 PM

    I am ready to say that Drevno has been a very disappointing hire. Maybe his ceiling as a coach is to strictly coach the OL, but since it’s the worst unit on the team, and it’s way too early to blame Frey for it, it is time for Drevno to be held accountable. I’ll stick with my prediction of 6-8 wins.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 17, 2017 at 12:42 PM

      I’m on the same boat with Drevno. It’s year 3. He certainly deserves a chance this year, but 3 games in there’s not much indication that things are moving forward.

      At some point that’s on the coach. We went through this exercise with Funk a couple years back. The D is strong, the skill position talent is there, the OL is holding the whole thing back.

      I’m not saying anyone should be fired. But there’s one hot seat.

  9. Comments: 666
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Sep 17, 2017 at 5:58 PM

    We haven’t actually learned much about this team that reality-based observers didn’t know before the season started. Mediocre quarterbacking and a shaky offensive line were going to hold us back. Not a surprise that this is still the outlook. Potential is not the same as proven talent. Inexperienced players are going to struggle. Duh and Duh. This is not going to be team where we can fret about style points. Every win is probably going to be a struggle.

    Biggest disappointments..Onwenu and Evans. Harbaugh absolutely raved about these guys as players last year, and they have had zero impact. Bunting and Wheatley (both invisible), Crawford and Speight right in there, too.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 327
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      DonAZ
      Sep 17, 2017 at 6:23 PM

      I think I heard Brandstatter and Dierdorf say Wheatley has some sort of injury. That may explain his relative absence.

      FWIW … Dierdorf was particularly critical of the play calling and game strategy as the game went into the half.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 17, 2017 at 10:46 PM

      Yeah, agree that more or less the team has looked as expected. 9-3 consensus looks like 9-3. But people are upset. We deal with this every year. Unrealistic optimism begets exaggerated disappointment and some feelings start coming out.

      I do think some individual players look better or worse than expected but in aggregate we have a balance of the two. I would name the same guys as biggest disappointments, though I would put Crawford higher and add Hart/Robbins. Pleasant surprises are led by Nordin, Isaac, Kugler, Furbush, Bush, and Long.

      I do think it’s important to note we haven’t seen the defense play anybody good yet. They’ve killed bad offenses the last 2 years to start seasons off too. The jekyl and hyde nature of the Florida squad (O vs D) was in full effect against UM.

      Anyway… I’m enjoying the ride. Go Blue!

      • Umichjenks
        Comments: 17
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Umichjenks
        Sep 17, 2017 at 11:24 PM

        Lan you are so delusional to say that we shouldn’t criticize Speight. He’s been fucking terrible all year…

        Speight is only 12-3 as a starter bc our defense and senior laden team last year carried his limp arm to victories.

        Name one big game he went out and won us the game? Please go look at his stats vs Iowa, MSU (no tds), Wisconsin, PSU, OSU, FSU. Save me injury bs either. He missed at least 3 wide open tds vs Iowa before the injury.

        In his last 6 games he has 9 turnovers, 3 pick sixes, 2 lost fumbles, 6 fumbles in total, ~53% passing, about 170 yds passing/game.

        Not all the offensive miscues are on him. Our OL sucks and our receivers haven’t gotten open or caught it when they are open.

        But here you are like JH himself making excuses for a 2nd yr starter who had been on campus for 3 yrs. This guy can’t even blow out Cincy and AF to get out back ups some PT.

        He never throws a receiver open, he throws late, he overthrows them in end zone by 6 feet, throws passes outside the hashes out of bounds.

        If you think he’s even mediocre I think you’re delusional.

        He’s the main reason we lost to Iowa, and OSU and FSU.

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