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Ira opened the WTKA Countdown to Kickoff broadcast talking about how the first home game is like a family reunion.  He’s spot on.

I love the opener.  Everything about it.   You really don’t need to have Jordans, Jeters and flyovers or even a great opponent to make it special.  You just need decent weather (it was perfect) and a nice win (it was near perfect).

23.  But since we did have Jordans and Jeters…I got this shot when MJ entered the field:

They whisked him to midfield immediately where he chilled until the pregame festivities got moving.  This was a good plan knowing the sideline is already a zoo and a bunch of haoles would have been glomming around MJ big time.

MJ at Michigan Stadium

GOATs + Woodley.  Dude, we all love Woodley and he’s arguably earned legend status in these parts.  But maybe he should have picked the UCF game for a triumphant return?   Via mgoblue.com:

Woodley

Smile if you have a Q rating over 40

Uniform Updates.  OK, obviously there are a bunch and the Uniform Timeline is updated with a few key items – more to come.  Thanks for the tweets and pings.

This one was subtle – the two varieties of shoe including one that allows the linemen to tape up (called spatting) and not violate the NIKE contract by covering the logo:

spats

The also liked that the Jumpman logo on the hip of the pants was relatively tiny:

hips

re: the satin (don’t call me matte) finish on the helmets.  Based on my detailed study via a twitter poll..

poll

..we learned that two-thirds of you love the helmets, 12% don’t like them, and most importantly, 21% of you aren’t true Michigan fans because you don’t care about stuff like this.

I didn’t see the game on TV but I hear for those at home they looked cool.  Same for the fans in the stands.  From my vantage up close at pregame, they looked “ok.”  I say the jury is still out.  I’d like to see how they look with the helmet stickers which, my gut tells me, will return in 2016 but will feature a slight redesign.

Mood.  It’s a great feeling and it’s a 92:

92

 

Via Ira and Benny’s Bakery in Saline:

Peppers

History Notes.  Via mgoblue.com

  • Michigan’s 60-point margin of victory is the seventh largest in program history since 1920 — and the largest since 1975 when the Wolverines defeated Northwestern 69-0.
  • …It is the just the fourth time in Michigan program history that U-M did not punt in a contest — the first since 2009 against Delaware State.
  • …Michigan’s first game with two defensive touchdowns since Brandon Herron posted a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown — the longest in program history — and a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Western Michigan on Sept. 3, 2011.

Game Program.  meh on the cover.  Nice piece on the late PA announcer Howard King by Barb Cossman.  Two nitpicks:  1. Looks like the Traditions section is gone – humbug!   2.  Dude, looks like IMG opened the floodgates on the advertisers.  The program includes dozens and dozens of tiny ads filling page after page near the back.

cover

 

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04. September 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: 2015

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Welcome back Meechigan football – and welcome back Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis.  Who knows the Bo-era better than Dr. Sap? Nooooo-body.  Here are the Rainbow Warrior decals for the season opener.

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION – It’s difficult to believe that Chris Evans is only the 3rd Michigan freshman running back to top 100 yards in a season opening game. The first time #12 carried the ball, his stature and running style reminded me of Jamie Morris, who just happened to set the Wolverine freshman season rushing record back in 1984 with 573 yards. But the more Evans ran, the more it dawned on me – he was the 3rd running back to carry the ball for the Maize and Blue against Hawaii. And just like that I realized that Michigan now has Alabama depth – in year two of Harbaugh. No, Evans does not equal Jamie Morris. Evans = T.J. Yeldon. Remember when ‘Bama had Eddie Lacy, Blake Sims and Yeldon was the 3rd-string RB as a freshman? That’s where Michigan is at right now with their offensive backfield. Deal with it, Paul Finebaum!

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION – Seeing that I’m testing your memory, let me ask you this: remember a few years back when Michigan linebackers were slow to hit the hole? When Michigan linebackers would get caught up in the wash and take themselves out of the play? When Michigan linebackers were guessing wrong on the angles they would take when trying to track down opposing ball-carriers? If you can’t remember or wiped that from your memory, good! Just think of #9 Mike McCray and how awesome he looked in the first quarter – when it was still a game – against Hawaii. Shooting the gap. Getting into the backfield. MAKING TACKLES – behind the line of scrimmage even!! So comforting to see in Game 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPIONJabrill Peppers was a stud at returning punts last year and it’s quite apparent he’s ready to take it to the next level this year.

jumpman (2)Photo: Bryan Fuller (@FullofTwitt) mgoblog

Whether he has to slip tackles to break free or jump over defenders, #5 is going to take it to the house before the year is over – mark my words!!

COACHING CHAMPION – Whether the Michigan Coaches like it or not, I’m going to start handing out helmet stickers to them this year. Defensive Coordinator, Don Brown gets a decal this week. Dr. Blitz and his Maize and Blue Crew just put up a wall in the first half against Hawaii. His goal is to stop the opposing team’s running game and I would say he did that and then some on Saturday. The Rainbow Warriors had -16 yards rushing in the first half?? WoW!! Decal for you Coach Brown – and welcome to Ann Arbor!!

UNIFORM CHAMPION – I LOVE how the Michigan helmet looks with the Amarillo yellow and dark blue colors. The matte finish, while different, looks tough. I know there are some of you who aren’t down with it, and to you I say, “Get on board with the change and embrace it – it’s gonna look Championship sweet when it’s all said and done!”

Now the design, and how the stripes don’t converge at the back & bottom of the helmet?  
satin finish
That’s another conversation for another time!

sap week 1

 

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02. September 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: 2016

IMG_7729 4 looks at scoreboard

To kickoff season VII of This Week in Michigan Football History we go back a mere 365 days to the official start of the Jim Harbaugh era.   Salt Lake City, Utah of all places was the venue, and no, it turns out Harbaugh didn’t have any pixie dust in those khakis.  But we saw enough to believe that things were about to change – dig it:

As always, this segment will appear all season on WTKA’s epic KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff prior to each game.  You can hear it live inside the Go Labatt Blue Light Victors Lounge starting at 8am Saturday.  Go Blue!

You can listen to all of This Week in Michigan Football History clips here.

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13. August 2016 · 1 comment · Categories: 2016

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By Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

Forty years ago, Michigan Football Coach Bo Schembechler had open-heart surgery. With it being his second procedure in just over 7 years, people were wondering just how The General would respond.

Being aware of what was happening around him, and to squash any rumors or negative recruiting talk about his health and his ability to coach, Bo did what he loved to do – he jammed it down your throat.

He conducted an interview to show and tell everybody how good he looked and how great he felt. But to make his point more emphatic, Bo would do the interview while running!   Check it out:

Former Michigan Replay host Larry Adderley recalled to me that it was one of the more unique interviews he ever did.

“It was shot out of the back of a truck while we were jogging around the field. (laughs) It was shot for Michigan Replay when Bo was in the recovery stages of his heart operation. (Producer) Bob Lipson and I were always looking for stories on Michigan Football and realized that other coaches shows didn’t pursue the same kind of features and segments we did.”

Adderley, a former MSU football walk-on, also told me that the interview “was Bob Lipson’s idea. I had actually done a series on running earlier in the year with a Wayne State University professor that helped me do this interview with Bo. I remember the professor telling me, ‘If you’re not willing to do this all the way through, don’t do it!’”

Having hosted the show from its inception in 1975 on WXYZ-TV in Detroit until it moved to WDIV-TV in 1980, Adderley said Bo was very accommodating to work with.

“We didn’t need Bo’s approval (to do these segments). Lipson was a Michigan fanatic and Bo was always busy with football stuff, so we typically never required Bo’s approval. Bo was good in that we rarely did any re-takes of the show. I recall the segments with Bo always went smoothly. I became fast friends with Bo and really appreciated the access he gave us for the show.”

[Ed.  You might recall this gem from 2014 !]:

Bo Gets Cut

03. August 2016 · 3 comments · Categories: 2015

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Yawn.  Stretch..I’m back after my three month tour of Europe, Scandinavia and the sub continent.

Following the uniform reveal there’s been mucho chatter regarding the potential for a maize jersey.  @UofM_graphix posted this:

Michigan All Maize Jersey

I saw this and booted but quickly rallied (to type this post).

Legend has it that this has been done before.  No, not in 1964 despite what this oft-reference graphics depicts:

Michigan

Never happened:

Michigan Wolverines 1964

 

So that wasn’t real…but apparently the world did see the Wolverines in an all-maize way back in the day.  According to the book produced by my pals Bruce Madej and Greg Kinney Champions of the Westit was November 10, 1928 when Michigan faced Navy down in Baltimore.  Navy wore their traditional blue so U-M came up with the alternate maize design – and apparently they were not too well received (via the Uniform Timeline):

Navy Game 1928

While that’s a grainy B&W shot, you can clearly see one squad is wearing a light-colored jersey.  Add that in 1928 they certainly couldn’t produce the range of yellows that you see today, I’m guessing the canary was more of a dull yellow–but yellow nonetheless.  And P.S., the numbers were only on the backs of the jersey until 1930.

Either way – puke.  Don’t do it.  And don’t even try to invert the colors on the helmets!

More to come on the uni reveal.  Note that I won’t update the Uniform Timeline with specifics until we see which gear specifically makes it to the field, meaning starting with the Hawaii opener.

 

02. June 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: 2015

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My thoughts are with Ann Arbor legend Charlie Green right now, as he is dealing with pancreatic cancer and is receiving care from Hospice.  Shemy Schembechler has started gofundme page to help out the family and I encourage you to consider helping out.

That said, I’m guessing many of you, especially those outside of town don’t know Charlie.  He is one of those guys who is omnipresent at Ann Arbor athletic and charity events – he’s just part of the fabric of this place.  He always has a kind word for you and I always love bumping into him and sharing a few words.

I really got to know Charlie for this piece I wrote back in 2010.  The story ran that summer in the Observer and the Detroit News and it provides a small glimpse at this great guy:

Ann Arbor’s Charlie Green – Fifty years at the U-M golf course
[Originally published in the Ann Arbor Observer and later, the Detroit News]

In 1954, Albert and Gail Green drove up from Dayton and dropped their son off at South Quad. Charlie Green’s been an Ann Arborite ever since.

After graduating from U-M in 1959, Green taught subjects that, he says, “make people groan”–algebra and geometry–in Willow Run and Taylor. But what made him eventually become one of the most-recognized folks in town was his decision in 1960 to take a summer job at the U-M Golf Course. He’s been there ever since, coming on full time after retiring from teaching in 1993. He’s been clubhouse manager for the last thirteen years.

Now seventy-four, he works from an office just inside the clubhouse lobby, handling staffing, payroll, reservations, and special outings. “That’s enough to keep busy,” says Green, who’s still a lanky six-footer but says, “I’m shrinking.”

His time working on the course spans most of its history. Designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzie, it opened in 1931, two years before MacKenzie’s jewel, Augusta National, site of the Masters Tournament. MacKenzie preferred to build around existing terrain as opposed to reshaping it from scratch. His greens famously undulate severely–to the frustration of many a golfer sitting over a four-foot bending putt.

The U-M course is “such a gorgeous place,” Green says, “but for many years it was ignored and fell into disrepair.” Things improved in the early 1990s when U-M raised $5 million to renovate the course. “They used to call it ‘The Rock,'” Green says, because the stone-hard fairways provided such generous rolls. “Now you fight for every foot.” The renovation didn’t touch those MacKenzie greens, though, which Green calls “the heart and soul” of the course.

A decade ago, pro golfer Ben Crenshaw visited the course, as part of a delegation looking at sites for the Buick Open. Green gave Crenshaw a guided tour, and after the second hole, he says, “it was like we’d known each other our entire lives.” But Crenshaw ended up quashing the proposed location. Hosting such a tournament would require adaptations that, he believed, would change the course for the worse. According to Green, Crenshaw declared, “Anyone who touches a blade of grass on this golf course ought to be shot! This course is a classic.”

To play at the U-M course, you must be affiliated with the school or be the guest of someone who is. Students take about one third of the tee times.

“People are quick to say, ‘Oh, it’s college kids, and they don’t care, and they’ll just tear things up,'” Green says. “But it’s not the case. They respect the course just as much as anybody else.”

While some have complained that playing the course takes too long, Green denies this. In fact, if someone is asked to leave the course it’s typically due to slow play–and since those players often lack the skill required for the demanding course, “frequently they’re relieved,” he says with a chuckle.

Green and his wife, Jean, have lived in the west-side Van Dusen subdivision for forty years. The couple have two grown children–Eileen, who’s in the mortgage business, and Sean, a website manager at U-M.

In his spare time, Sean carries on the family athletic department tradition–though, his father points out, he has it comparatively easy. Along with his work at the golf course, Green has helped out at U-M football and basketball games since the 1960s. He remembers typing out play-by-play descriptions of basketball games “on an old manual typewriter–and I’m not a typist.”

Sean handles that duty for the team today, using a touch-screen computer to document the action on the court. “That’s nothing,” Green snaps. Recalling a multisyllabic U-M basketball star from the late 60s, he says, “I typed ‘Tomjanovich’ five thousand times, and all he does is touch a button.”

In 2002 Green was presented with an honorary varsity “M,” a tribute given to only a few nonathletes. “I don’t know if there’s anybody out there with a bad word to say about Charlie Green,” says former football coach Lloyd Carr. Carr says Green “goes out of his way to help people” and exudes “deep pride” in the course and its history.

Those who make it onto the U-M golf course will find a special plaque bearing Green’s name near the sixth hole’s tee box. He handpicked the visually stunning par four to be the site of this honor. With its tree-lined fairway and two-level green surrounded by beautiful trees, he considers it the “signature hole” of the course.

Not just a caretaker, Green is a serious golfer himself. At his finest, he was a six handicap: in layman’s terms, that means he was darn good. He still tries to get in a game on Thursdays. A hole in one? “Naw, never had one,” he says, sighing. “But I’ve had two eagles on par fours.”

While that is arguably a more rare and difficult feat, Green acknowledges with a smirk, “Nobody cares.”

[Again, Shemy Schembechler has started gofundme page to help out the family and I encourage you to consider helping out.]

 

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The final decals of the year delivered by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis.  Well done Sap!  I added the editor’s pick for sweaty Harbs.

For me, a ten win season is top notch.  Only the best teams in Michigan Football history can say they had a double-digit win season.  For this team to finish with a Citrus Bowl victory and possibly a top ten national ranking, is a testament to their work and improvement each week.   What can you say about this coaching staff?  Jim has assembled a tremendous group and the way they dominated this Gator squad spoke volumes to their preparation and in-game management and execution.

To the seniors who stuck around and stayed – you are Champions!

Speaking of, here are your Citrus Bowl Game Champions:

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION – Hands down, Jake Rudock was the straw that was stirring the Michigan Offensive drink today.  The turnaround in his play from the beginning of the season to the Citrus Bowl against Florida was remarkable.  It brought to mind two other amazing QB head-turning performances that I can recall in Michigan Football history: Steve Smith in 1983 and Tom Brady in 1999.  Once Smith had his harness removed from a separated shoulder earlier in 1983, #16 responded with three amazing performances to finish his career as a Wolverine.  Tom Brady became Tom Brady in the last three games of his Wolverine career as well.

Jake

Performances against Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama showed everyone why Lloyd Carr wanted #10 to just wait for his turn for good things to happen.  Can you imagine what Jake Rudock would be like after spending 3 or 4 years with Harbaugh and this staff?  While we won’t see it with Rudock per se, I have a feeling we will see that metamorphosis with the next Michigan QB.  Can’t wait!  When Rudock was interviewed after the game by Dr. Jerry Punch and he informed #15 that he was only the second QB in Michigan history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, you could see Rudock get choked up – awesome!  While he was the QB for just one season, Jake Rudock left an indelible mark on Michigan Football.  Thanks for a great and memorable year to the guy his teammates call “Dad!”

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION – The entire D-Line played outstanding against the Gators, today.  Guys like Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton, Maurice Hurst, Jr. and Royce Jenkins-Stone looked like an SEC line that just stuffs the run and forces the opponent to be one-dimensional.  I love that formula for defensive success and if that is a sign of things to come, look out – that just makes the rest of the defense that much better.  I don’t see much drop off in play for the defense next year and that bodes well for tough games on the road at East Lansing and Columbus in 2016.

SPECIAL TEAMS – We all knew that Kenny Allen had quite the leg this year.  His field goal accuracy this season was outstanding and he showed that against Florida on Saturday with two more three-pointers.  But what surprised me was two things – (1) Michigan only punted once in this Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and (2) Kenny Allen boomed that punt 57 yards!  Holy Schnikees that was impressive!!

UFER FAN CHAMPIONS – As I watched the game on TV, I was thrilled to see so much maize and blue in the stadium on Saturday.  But what made me smile was the “Let’s Go Blue” chant I heard from the Michigan faithful in the stands.

Fans Via mgoblue.com

I can’t EVER remember hearing that at a Michigan Bowl Game.  That was great to hear!  As Ufe would say, “God bless your cotton-pickin’ maize and blue hearts!”

EDITOR’S CHOICE:  To Coach Harbs, for wearing his coaching M sweatshirt the entire game in the Florida heat.  It was drenched and wrapped around him like foil midway through the 2nd quarter:

Harbs

Bad call!  But he didn’t flinch and wore it the whole game, and according to Niyo, even the entire week during practice.  I was in Florida – it was hot bro!

Decals dealt out in previous weeks:

    • Utah: Jake Butt, Jabrill Peppers, Blake O’Neill, (Uniform: White Road Uniforms), John Kryk
    • Oregon State:  De’Veon Smith, Chris Wormley, Delano Hill, The Coaching Staff
    • UNLV:  Ty Issac, Channing Stribling, Blake O’Neill
    • BYU: Jake Rudock, Defensive Line, Jabrill Peppers, (Uniform: Properly Hiked up White Socks), Amara Darboh
    • Maryland: Drake Johnson, Desmond Morgan, Kenny Allen, (Uniform: Blue lyrca leggings).
    • Northwestern: Jehu Chesson, Jourdan Lewis, Offensive Line, (Uniform: Maize and Blue gloves).
    • Michigan State:  No Champions
    • Minnesota: Wilton Speight, Michigan defense, Jabrill Peppers, (Uniform: Stickers crossing the stripes! :O)
    • Rutgers: Jake Rudock, Taco Charlton, Jim Harbaugh
    • Indiana: Jake Rudock, Jehu Chesson, Delano Hill, Jourdan Lewis, Coaching staff, (Uniform: #CHADTOUGH on helmets)
    • Penn State: Jake Rudock, Jourdan Lewis, Taco Charlton, Michigan Coaching Staff
    • Ohio State: Jehu Chesson, Jehu Chesson again (Special Teams)
    • Florida (Citrus Bowl): Jake Rudock, D-Line, Kenny Allen, the Michigan Faithful in Orlando, Coach Harbaugh

 

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I mentioned this in my Holiday Shopping List for Michigan Fans post, but noted I hadn’t actually seen it yet.   Well I recently picked up a copy of  Wolverine – A Photographic History of Michigan Football and I can confirm they did a nice job.  Instead of offering a smattering of photos across Michigan Football History (which isn’t a bad thing of course), they took a unique path. They present a pile of photos that deftly chronicle 5 specific seasons:  1925, 1947, 1969, 1997 and 2011.   Check out Bennie O. alongside Benny Friedman in the raccoon coat from 1925:

2015-12-23 09.28.59

And this shot from the Navy game that same year:

2015-12-23 09.29.06

It takes you on and off the field for these five years, including a few photos I’m not sure have been viewed by anyone outside of the photographer and a few folks in the Ann Arbor News sports department.

Sadly, there’s no pic of me catching the ball after Gibby’s game-winning Sugar Bowl kick but I’m hopeful for the 2nd edition.

Get Wolverine – A Photographic History of Michigan Football available at Amazon and, I assume around town?

 

CU7usDWUYAAm2Rv

Right in the giblets

It came down to lack of depth.  We don’t have the depth to replace the key injuries and just didn’t have the talent on defense to hang with the big boys.   We were exposed.  But we’ll be back with more guys.  Harbaugh and crew have done a remarkable job this season with what we have.  At kickoff today of the final game of the regular season we were in the B1G and even playoff discussion.   Sights and sounds:

Honoring Legends:  Talking with those involved, sounds like #1000SSS did a great job taking care of the families of the Legends this morning and for the game.  Here’s the Oosterbaan crew including my man Ben McCready (47), godson of the great Bennie O.:

IMG_8232 Bennie and Fam

Again, the Legends program did a great thing by putting these great players in the forefront.  The other bonus was building new relationships with the current families and in certain cases, with the student athletes who got to wear the coveted jerseys.  McCready shared this note he received recently from Capt. Jake Ryan:

“Ben – I just wanted to write and tell you it was an honor to wear the #47 jersey at Michigan. I was excited when Coach Hoke asked me and I wanted to represent Bennie in the best way on and off the field. Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity and Go Blue! – Jake”

It was a delicate thing to do.  Of course Mark Harmon didn’t make it back so I’m not sure how the Harmons feel about the whole thing.  I’m good with the re-retirement and I’m looking forward to the ceremonies for Woodson (and of course Peppers).

Twenty One – Also a nice, brief acknowledgment of Desmond today.   I wonder if they are going to keep the flags outside the stadium?  I doubt it given they have set up permanent displays in one of the concourses:

Flags best

Traditions.  Michigan Marching Band tradition dictates that the drum major must toss his mace over the goal post and catch it.  If he does, Michigan wins.  If not, ugh:

Michigan mace fail

It’s happened before I know, including before the 2007 Appalachian State game THE HORROR (back then I referred to the mace incorrectly as a ‘baton‘) but was corrected later on.

Season Ticket Holders – During the 3rd quarter, they asked the season ticket holders to stand, then remain standing based on longevity (10 years, 25 years, etc.).  Nice touch (and nice marketing!). 26 here.

The King.  Came to see Peppers:

2015-11-28 10.53.45 Elvis

And Peppers was fun to watch:

CU7u2vuUYAEwGh7

#ChadTough – Beyond the retirement of #21 (and the re-retirements), there’s no other Michigan entry in the Uniform Timeline, but props to the folks in Columbus – very cool that the Buckeyes affixed these to their helmets today:

Chad Tough

 

CU7uEWBUAAAD_QH

Mood.  Back to 80:

mood data

Work! Work it Girl!  If you carried a camera into the media entrance, the officers asked you to take a photo to prove the camera wasn’t something evil.  So naturally I pointed the camera at the officer and asked her to give me her best:

cop

Big Nice Nut – For those who didn’t watch on TV, Big Nut and his buddy were in the first row in the south end zone:

stubhub

Dead serious:  I chatted up Mr. Nut and he was genuinely a nice dude.  Sorry.  Either way, damn you Stubhub!

Elsewhere:

Ace:

For the tenth time in eleven years, Ohio State won The Game. The Buckeyes ran at will; Michigan couldn’t trust its run game enough to even use it without ample trickery. While Michigan’s 9-3 record and obvious team-wide improvement stand as a testament to the remarkable work of Jim Harbaugh, today’s game showed just how much ground the program must make up on their chief rival.

MBN:

The Wolverine defense looked utterly confused and all around gassed during the game. There was no answer for the Buckeye’s zone read, and power runs.  Ohio State scored on six consecutive drives, aside from the end of the first half, which put the pressure on the Wolverines offense to make plays.

The Wolverine offense was able to march the football down the field, but had troubles finishing off drives in the redzone. Michigan settled for two field goals in the game while down in the redzone.

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