Michigan 31, EMU 3 recap
After taking a few days to think it over, I’m convinced my initial assessment of this game was on-target.
Offense: EMU’s offense started off strong, but was unable to convert. Six first-half drives reached Michigan’s side of the field, including first quarter drives that went all the way to the 4-yard line and 1-yard line, but despite great field position and a bunch of yards gained, the Eagles only managed three points. MGoBlog asks, and answers the question, “How did Eastern Michigan run for 4.5 YPC despite having their quarterback attempt five passes all game?” The short answer is that “It’s bad if your DT gets his butt kicked.”
In post-game comments, Brady Hoke and safety Jordan Kovacs both commented on EMU’s willingness to use unconventional offensive formations. Kovacs offered the following:
[Eastern] gave us some funky formations. They kind of came out and threw the kitchen sink at us in the first half and some formations we’d never seen.
We heard several opposing coaches comment on the difficulty of preparing for EMU’s offense, for exactly this reason. MGoBlog commented on the effectiveness of EMU’s “funky” offense:
EMU used a ton of formations, unbalanced lines, presnap motion, and wholesale realignments to get Michigan’s D out of position and confused. It worked. It worked on Demens and it worked on large chunks of the rest of the D.
Defense: EMU’s defense looked pretty good early in the game, with Darius Scott intercepting a Denard Robinson pass on Michigan’s first drive, followed by forcing 3-and-outs on three of Michigan’s next four possessions. Starting about midway through the second quarter, however, they seemed to start wearing down, and Michigan adjusted from starting Robinson under to center to a shotgun formation. I will definitely give EMU credit for not giving up the way they have in the past (see: 71-3). Even after the outcome of the game had long been settled, they continued to contest plays. One need look no farther for evidence of this than the defensive stop in the fourth quarter that forced Michigan to settle for a field goal.
When you look at those 31 points allowed, be sure to remember that Notre Dame allowed Michigan 35, while Western Michigan, who some people have tabbed as the team to beat in the MAC West Division, allowed 34 through less than three quarters, which normalizes to about 47 points in a 60-minute game. Last year, after playing eight teams that reached bowl eligibility, Michigan’s scoring average was 34.3. I think holding the Wolverines to 31 points is pretty respectable. Although I’m a little nervous about depth, this looks like a defense that can hold its own in the MAC.
Special teams: EMU’s two kickoffs saw the Wolverines start at their 21 and 17 yard lines. Jay Karutz’s five punts handed the ball over on the 13, 13, 17, 12, and 22 yard lines. Michigan’s average starting field position was the 16-yard line. Michigan’s six kickoffs saw the Eagles start at the 10, 40, Michigan’s 47, 33, 35, and 17. Three punts started EMU at the Michigan 39, the EMU 40, and the EMU 47. EMU’s average starting field position was the 39-yard line. EMU clearly dominated Michigan in the kickoff/punt/return game.
Placekicking was fairly even. Brendan Gibbons made all his PATs plus a 21-yard field goal for the Wolverines. Kody Fulkerson was only called on to kick twice, both for field goals; he made a 21-yard attempt but came up just short on a 50-yard attempt at the end of the first half.
Overall: I continue to be most concerned about the offense, a concern that I first voiced midway through last season when I blamed the offense for a portion of the team’s apparent defensive woes. The defense is clearly improved, but the offense still leaves a lot to desire. If EMU can get even a halfway-decent passing game going, they’ll have little trouble finishing in the middle of the MAC.