Devin Funchess’ availability was a hot button topic all week after missing Michigan’s week 3 game against Miami. On the first drive, Michigan wasted no time in showing that Funchess would be an integral part of the offense today. Quarterback Devin Gardner found Funchess for a 14-yard first down on the first offensive snap. Funchess, however, left the game briefly to receive medical attention. Michigan’s drive, which covered 50 yards, was culminated by a 42-yard field goal from Matt Wile, giving UM a 3-0 lead early on.
On the next drive, the Utes were unable to muster much of anything on offense and were well-contained thanks to stout tackling by Michigan’s defensive backs on the edge. After a Utah 3-and-out, the Wolverines began its second drive right where its first left off—with Devin Funchess. Gardner found Funchess for two gains of 19+ yards (19 and 24 yards respectively) before a negative-yardage pass stalled Michigan’s drive around midfield.
Will Hagerup proceeded to knock a well-executed pooch punt deep into Utah territory, but short of the Utah end zone, positioning Utah at their own 3-yard line. On third down deep within their own territory, Utah dialed up a perfectly timed RB screen to the play’s weakside. This screen to Bubba Poole went for 67 yards, putting the ball at Michigan’s 25-yard line, before Jourdan Lewis could track the play down from the opposite side of the field. Utah was forced to settle for a 35-yard field goal, evening the score at 3 with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Poor special teams play continues to be a theme for Team 135 as Utah’s Kaelin Clay fielded a punt and returned it 66 yards to the house, giving Utah a 10-3 lead with 14 minutes left in the 2nd. This punt return marked Clay’s third return touchdown of the season.
On the ensuing drive, Michigan continues to feed Derrick Green the rock early on. Green showed excellent patience as he allowed for his blocker to pave his way for a 20-yard run. Green later tacked on a 9-yard run, good for another Michigan first down. The drive resulted in another Hagerup punt, although, as an ill-advised pitch by Gardner and a tipped pass relegated UM to another 4th-and-long situation.
A short Utah possession, which was highlighted by a dangerous hurdle from Utes QB Travis Wilson, ends in another Utah 3-and-out. Michigan has done a solid job of containing what was billed as a high-powered Utah passing attack so far, allowing just 89 total yards (including -3 rushing). Out of those 89 total yards, 67 came on the screen pass to Poole.
Starting at their own 49, Michigan began their final drive in the second quarter with tremendous field position. A quick throw to Funchess on a post route went for 24 yards and a first down. The Wolverines were not able to capitalize on their field position, though, as Gardner threw an interception to kill the drive.
Michigan matched Utah’s defensive effort just two plays later, although with an unlikely culprit, as defensive tackle Willie Henry leapt up high to grab an interception that was promptly returned 7 yards for a touchdown. This marks the first career interception for the 293-pound junior defensive tackle.
After Henry’s unexpected pick-6, Utah trotted out backup quarterback Kendall Thompson as Wilson received medical attention. This allowed for Utah to develop the most rhythm it has shown all game on offense, stringing together a 16 play, 54-yard drive resulting in a field goal to put Utah up 13-10 heading into the half.
Utah’s Kaelin Clay received the kickoff to open the second half and took the kick 33 yards, setting up the Utes at their own 33-yard line. On the very next play, Bubba Poole gashed the Wolverines’ defense for 24 yards right up the gut. Travis Wilson also returned in the second half, where he found a wide open Dres Anderson for a 28-yard touchdown. Utah’s 77-yard touchdown drive took all of 1 minute and 27 seconds. This is the high-powered, explosive Utah offense that was expected to show up before kickoff.
In response, Michigan rattled off several positive runs (Gardner for 8, DeVeon Smith for 3, Justice Hayes for 13) before shooting itself in the foot on a 12-yard sack. The Wolverines were not able to recover from the daunting down and distance, trotting out the punt team once again.
Personnel notes: Funchess was playing on what is currently the second drive of the half, but he did not start the half with the first team offense. Without Funchess fully available, a reliable downfield target needed to step up. That may have Jake Butt’s name written all over it, but I do not recall seeing him play up to this point.
Possibly feeling the pressure of a 10-point deficit in the waning moments of the 3rd quarter, Gardner dialed up a QB-sneak on 4th and 1 to move the chains, which was executed successfully. On a subsequent 4th and drive, Michigan again chose to go for it, sending Gardner on a rollout to his right. This time, Gardner was not able to pick up the first, giving Utah the ball at the 39 yard line with 1:33 remaining in the third.
Before the culmination of the third quarter, Wilson was able to complete each of this three pass attempts, gaining a total of 31 yards and setting the Utes up at the Michigan 31-yard line to begin the 4th.
Utah knocked in a 48-yard field goal at the beginning of the 4th, extending their lead to 13 points.
Gardner telegraphed a pass directly to a Utah defender for his 2nd interception of the day on the next drive. Utah took over at the Michigan 47-yard line. Fans were heading for the exits as bad weather, mistakes terrorize the UM offense.
Shane Morris replaced Gardner as the Wolverines trail by 16 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. Facing 3rd and 7, Morris picked up a first down with his legs in the face of pressure.
However, the wheels came off from there. After one more first down, Morris threw a 3rd down interception that was run back to the U-M 32 at the 7:52 mark.
Following a 2+ hour lightening delay, Utah turned the ball back to U-M by missing a field goal. However, with Morris still at quarterback, the next drive ended with a Morris-fumble at the Utah 44 at the 4:30 mark.
Utah killed as much clock as they could, then punted the ball to the U-M 3 yard line with 1:10 to go. Morris threw four incompletions, and that was all she wrote.
U-M/Utah Instant Analysis
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