Special teams and turnovers, that's the reason Michigan lost this game. There are always areas to improve on of course, all the time. But those two things are the reasons Michigan lost.
Two extra points missed, the blocked punt for a touchdown, the punt returned for a touchdown. That's sixteen points right there. And the two interceptions. That's the game.
Otherwise, if you look at the stats sheet, you wouldn't be able to tell who won. The stats show Oregon with more rushing yards and no turnovers to Michigan's two. But the Wolverines ran more offensive plays, and had more passing yards. And it was a virtual tie in total yards.
But, you gotta be mistake-free on the road against a good team, or close to it. A team can't expect to comeback from 21-6 at the half on the road. But Michigan played hard the second half. They fought hard, they came back, and they almost pulled it out.
Might as well start with the most obvious area. Special teams. Michigan had a punt run back in the first half for for a touchdown, and in the second half when they'd closed to 24-21 they had the blocked punt for a touchdown. And on the two missed PAT's -- on one Oregon simply beat the Michigan offensive lineman on an inside gap, and on the other one Adam Finley pulled it. The reason people haven't seen Garrett Rivas more is, he kicks it low.
The Michigan Offense:
John Navarre missed some throws, but that's just part of the game. He's our best quarterback -- and a bad quarterback doesn't set all those records. He did throw two interceptions which is more than Michigan had hoped. Plus the Michigan line gave up four sacks. On the game's last drive -- that sack bit them. That was a crucial sack by Oregon's defense.
Steve Breaston and Braylon Edwards both had over 100 yards receiving. Braylon didn't play terrible. He made a couple great catches. And Jason Avant had a good day. They're human and will make mistakes of course.
Michigan couldn't get the running game going. Oregon played a great game defensively, with 8 men in the box, and different defensive schemes combined with a lot of 'man coverage' which Michigan didn't expect. The Ducks' linebackers did good job against the run and against Michigan's tight ends.
But we knew Oregon would put 8 men in the box, and would do everything to stop Chris Perry and make Navarre throw it to beat them. And Navarre did throw it, with two receivers over getting 100 yards. But when you can't get the ball back to be able to score, it doesn't help. And the Michigan offense only had it for three plays in the first quarter.
The Michigan Defense:
Oregon had a very good offensive game plan with their two quarterbacks and two running backs. And they finished with a balanced attack: they had 127 yards rushing, 253 passing. That's a good combination. And they were very very effective with their tight ends, who made five catches for almost 100 yards. They saw something over the middle there. Their tight ends made their game breaking plays, and their quarterbacks with their two scrambles, one each, for 36 yards. And Oregon had no turnovers -- you have to create turnovers to win.
Oregon came right out of the gate with an eighteen play drive, and after Michigan returned the blocked kick for a touchdown they came back with another long drive. The Michigan defense was on the field too long, and made some mistakes.
Michigan tried to blitz a lot, but couldn't get to the quarterback. Michigan had just one sack. Oregon did a good job picking up the blitzes. Their quarterbacks were ready for this game, they made good reads and check-downs to open receivers ... they were able to be effective against Michigan's blitzes. With Oregon's game plan, distributing the ball to stretch the field, their tight ends put Michigan's linebackers under a lot of pressure. And Oregon also blocked the Wolverine linebackers on running plays, and blocked them on blitzes. Pierre Woods took it personal if you noticed, and apologized afterward -- and they will do better.
Michigan's corners didn't get beat deep. There were no extremely long plays over 30 yards against the defense. Jeremy LeSueur and Ernest Shazor came to play, and played well. And Marcus Curry played well, the holding call against him was 'close'.
And Larry Stevens played well at defensive end too.
So, it was special teams and turnovers that cost Michigan the Oregon game -- did I say that?
The beautiful thing is, Michigan WILL improve. Did they come into the game a little bit overconfident because of beating a not-yet-exposed-as-bad Notre Dame team .... I don't think so actually, but if so, or whether they still have some improving to do -- they will bounce back. Michigan is a good football team. And there's no doubt they have a chance to show that they are better in two weeks, at Iowa.
In order to improve:
- The defense has to improve -- particularly in getting to the quarterback.
- Special teams have to improve. Will they go with Rivas as their place kicker? There will certainly be some serious competition there.
- Offensively, I think it'll be back to the running game again. They'll hit that hard this week. Expect 30 carries from Chris Perry this week against Indiana. Boy will Michigan pound Indiana.
We'll find out at Iowa if Michigan has improved. Oregon and Iowa are very comparable teams. It'll come down to turnovers and special teams again. We'll see if Michigan has taken this Oregon game and learned from it and improved.
Ouimet: "Special Teams and Turnovers"
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