Ouimet on the MSU Game, and the Big Ten

Former Michigan staffer <b>Mark Ouimet</b> analyzes why Michigan won the game, and the play of the Michigan offense and defense. Plus he talks about the Big Ten race, and takes a peak ahead to Northwestern.<br>


The reasons Michigan won the game. Why did Michigan win?

1. Drew Stanton went out (Damon Dowdell played well, but he's not as good as Stanton).
2. The successful onside kick (well executed ... but still, any recovered onside kick involves luck).
3. Garrett Rivas was 100% with his field goals and PAT's.
4. Chad Henne and Braylon Edwards were outstanding in the two minute offense at the end of the game. Henne has learned so much, and has improved so much. If Michigan has a 'great' freshman, it's Henne.

Now don't get me wrong - Mike Hart is a good player too, but MSU was giving Michigan the run and taking away the pass -- and for 3 1/2 quarters it worked until U-M just decided they had to go downfield and Braylon made the catches. But Hart, no doubt, is Michigan's best back, he gets positive yardage, and he has accomplished an awful lot for a freshman ... 200 yards rushing 3 consecutive games in a row, and the first Michigan freshman ever to go over 1,000 yards. And he has improved on screen plays -- he had 5 catches against MSU for 19 yards. Executing the screen play is a hard thing to do for a back. It's unfortunate Hart got hurt at the end of the game. And if you noticed at the end -- if Pierre Rembert does play, he's in there to block for a pass play. Hart missed two blocks in the game to allow two sacks of Henne ... one of which caused him to fumble (fortunately Michigan recovered after that long pileup). He does have to improve his pass blocking.

So where were we ... The Michigan Offense:

Michigan was 7 for 18 on 3rd down. And they were 5 for 5 in the red zone. That's not bad. Those stats got padded by the great last 7 minutes and overtime of course.

Garrett Rivas, as I said, was outstanding. That was his best game at Michigan. He kicked the onside kick too, as well as going 3-3 on field goals, and 3-3 on extra points. All were solid kicks ... fortunately all the field goals were all with the wind.

Michigan lost the time of possession -- but that got screwed up because of the 2 minute offense at the end of the game: MSU was trying to run the clock and Michigan was TRYING to score as fast as possible.

Michigan did a good job with the 2 minute offense. I think they need to sprinkle it in here and there during the game ... you can bet Scot Loeffler would like to do that. Michigan's 2 minute offense is their version of the spread offense.

As I said, Henne and Braylon were outstanding in the 2 minute offense, and MSU knew they were going to throw the ball. I have to say it again -- my hat's off to Henne. I know how hard it is to run that offense ... the checks he made in that game, those were checks he wasn't able to make earlier in the year.

Henne did check to Hart a lot early when he looked at the coverage and was confused ... MSU did a good job keeping Michigan running for most of the game. And running the ball ... even though Michigan was getting yards, they were losing 27-10.

The Michigan Defense:

I don't want to talk about the Michigan defense ... what defense?

The defense gave up 535 yards of offense to MSU ... and MSU's second leading rusher only played half a game. It was fortunate for Michigan, as I said, that Stanton had to leave.

Michigan was spying Stanton with Ernest Shazor in the first half, but Shazor kept getting blocked ... Shazor, Ryan Mundy, and Prescott Burgess all played poorly in the first half. They kept overrunning the play and getting out of position. They did a little better in the second half. But Dowdell was 8-13 for 72 yards, which was not bad -- although he didn't run as well as Stanton. They lacked a little without Stanton in there ... a couple times Dowdell threw it away where Stanton would've tucked it and run.

MSU's running back De'Andre Cobb did a great job ... 205 yards rushing, with 2 big plays. Big plays kill a defense. And you can't win a championship giving up 535 yards.

On : Adam Finley did a nice job punting, and special times did good job overall. The onside kick was huge, Rivas did a great job on that.

Michigan lost the turnover battle (1-0), they lost time of possession, they gave up 535 yards ... if you'd told me that before game I'd have said no way they would win. And MSU got 6.4 yards per play ... Michigan's was 6.3 because of Braylon in the 2 minute offense.

Basically, the defense put Michigan 'behind the 8-ball'. Thank goodness Michigan has a great two-minute offense ... have I said that enough?

Looking ahead:

Now Michigan has a bye-week. That's not as great a thing as you may think ... you'd like to take this momentum and run with it. And Michigan has not played well coming out of a bye-week. But with injuries to Hart, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, it's not a bad time to be able to rest those guys. Avant played well too by the way -- he made that end zone catch after dislocating his finger.

Looking ahead two weeks for just a second: Northwestern is not a great football team, but they're not bad either. And Michigan tends to be flat after a bye-week. So Northwestern will give Michigan some trouble. But Michigan has the best talent in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is weak and young, and Michigan has the best overall team. And after facing versions of the spread offense their last two games (Purdue and MSU), they should be ready for Northwestern.

It's going to be an interesting finish in the Big Ten:

Wisconsin plays Minnesota at home, and then Iowa and MSU on the road. Will they win all three? I think they will, but they have a tough road yet. If Drew Stanton separated his throwing shoulder, he'll be out for several weeks, through the regular season.

OSU plays at MSU, at Purdue and U-M at home, and has to win one more game to be bowl eligible. The U-M game could be a must-win game for them. The last thing U-M wants is for that to happen.

By the way, for Northwestern and MSU ... that 12th game vs. Hawaii for those schools means they have to win 7 games to qualify for a bowl. I called the Big Ten office to check that out ... they cannot go 6-6 and be bowl eligible.

And, finally, Michigan vs. Wisconsin would be a hellava game. Even in a bowl ... ... ... but it's impossible really for that bowl matchup to happen.

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