Hawkeyes Prove a Big Test to Sluggish Wolverines
ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN OCTOBER 21, 2006 The Blue grinded out another win in this perfect season, this time pulling away from Iowa in the fourth quarter. This completes a brutal stretch of games: Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and now the Hawkeyes, all in consecutive weeks. Once again the defense created fits for the opposing offense and the M offense slowly wore down the opposing D. With this win, it is now very likely that the Blue will march into Columbus unscathed for a battle they are already calling “Armageddon”.
While everyone is having a love affair with the 2006 Wolverines I’d like to share a few concerns. Here’s the takes from the game along with a few nit picks:
– Shaky, Shaky. While they got it done, there were some tense moments out there, and the overturned fumble (and the awarding of the first down) in the fourth quarter proved huge. What’s right is right: Hart’s knee was down and he probably had enough for the first down. You couldn’t help but think about the quality of opponent here, with Iowa getting crushed by Ohio State at home and losing to Indiana. The Hawkeye D at time looked dominating as it stuffed Hart and had Chad Henne running for his life. Indiana ran all over the Hawkeyes. I left the game feeling a little more concerned about this team’s chances to beat the Buckeyes.
– Vertically Challenged. It’s time to acknowledge that the loss of #86 is hurting a little more than many thought. Arrington has been very impressive and Breaston and freshman Greg Matthews have stepped up nicely but something is missing. I don’t think Henne even attempted a pass of more than 30 yards, and one of his longer passes was picked off. It may be that Michigan didn’t feel like they needed to air it out, but it would have been nice to see. I wonder if a) Arrington can’t separate, and 2) Carr doesn’t have faith in Breaston to make the long catch.
– Special Teams. Lost in the love affair with Ron English’s defense is the play of Michigan’s special teams over the last few weeks. Throw out the freakish kick-off return fumble by Brandon Minor and the team had a great week again. Breaston’s return in the third quarter was turning point and Rivas was sharp. The best of the bunch: The Romanian Bomber, Zoltan Mesko. I’m a little concerned about the time it takes him to get the punt off but he was outstanding overall. Long when he needed to, and he did a great job pinning the punts inside the Hawkeye 20.
– Depth at TE. Michigan is down to its third string Tight End as Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey who didn’t dress Saturday. I hope we get these guys back, but Carson Butler filled in great at least as a receiver. He made 3 nice catches and managed to create some extra yards each time. LaMarr Woodley joked after the game that he could play TE if it came to it.
– Reliance on #20. They finally did it. No one else touched the ball on a conventional rushing play except for Mike Hart. Here’s to hoping that this next stretch provides Michigan the ability to play Grady and the other guys. You have to wonder how/if Grady has improved this year – he’s had so few chances!