The Bad – Special Teams
Special teams cost Michigan dearly versus Utah. Things didn’t start out so poorly. Matt Wile nailed a 42-yard field goal of the game’s opening possession. Then after Michigan’s second drive stalled Will Hagerup executed the pooch punt perfectly, pinning the Utes at their own three-yard line (an obvious improvement on his failed effort from the week prior). Unfortunately that was the high point for the Maize & Blue specialty teams.
The next punt was Utah’s touchdown return. There were two glaring issues on the play. Eliminate one of them and maybe the Utes don’t bring it all the way back. The very first problem was the Wolverines only had 10 men on the field. That’s an error that falls equally on the players and coaches for not noticing in time to get another man on the field or call a timeout.
The next problem was the execution of the punt. While it did travel 46 yards there was very little air under it… essentially outkicking the coverage. The two errors combined for a momentum-swinging play.
The next punt did successfully pin Utah inside the 10 again, but on Michigan’s next punt from the Utah 43 Hagerup sent the ball into the endzone.
The next punt was another opportunity to pin the Utes deep, punting from midfield, but the line drive was returned 17 yards.
The punting statistics through four games tell the tale of Michigan’s struggles in the punt game. The Maize & Blue ranks 123 out 125 in net punting with an average of 28.93 yards.
It’s a stat that suggests quarterback may not be the only spot up for which the competition in practice intensifies for this week.