Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michigan Escapes Indiana 36-33

They will call it an ugly win. And it certainly was. But Tay Odoms was smiling.

Down 33-29 in the final moments of the fourth quarter the sophomore slot receiver Martavious Odoms made the game winning score Saturday on a 28 yard touchdown pass reception from banged up Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier to give the Wolverines (4-0) the victory 36-33. Surprisingly, this was Martavious Odoms’ first touchdown reception as a Michigan Wolverine.

Kudos to the Indiana Hoosiers (3-1) and their head coach Bill Lynch. The new Pistol offense is improving each week for them and Michigan's defense served as a nice practice dummy to work on. Indiana came to Ann Arbor with a creative game plan: attack Michigan’s corners and the middle of the field with a mixture of short and long passes, and as for running the ball, just employ a full frontal assault on Michigan's center line and linebackers with isolation runs up the middle and to the outside. This approach worked well on Saturday against a soft, malleable Michigan defense. Want the evidence? Hoosier tailback Darius Willis shredded Michigan for over 152 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85 yard jaunt. Indiana outrushed (197 yards to 149 yards) and out-passed Michigan (270 yards to 223 yards) in this football game, and had fewer turnovers and penalties as well.

Michigan’s read spread option offense had previously been averaging 287 yards rushing per game, but Indiana’s defensive front seven halved that output on Saturday. The Wolverines also lost 3 fumbles, threw one interception and generally looked out of sync with several players replacing injured starters on both sides of the ball. Yet the Hoosier defense still struggled to prevent three Michigan scores on the ground and two through the air, including a 2 point conversion run by Forcier early in the 4th quarter.

For the second straight week tailback Carlos Brown lead the team on to victory with solid contributions and big plays, with 83 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Banged up senior tailback Brandon Minor tacked on another 50 yards rushing and one TD as well.

Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier seemed off in this game, but did his best to continue his spot-on imitation of former Wolverine quarterback Rick Leach in this game. Forcier hit on 11 of 21 (52%) passing attempts for 184 yards, 2 touchdown chucks, 15 yards rushing and 1 touchdown run plus a 2 point conversion run. Forcier also just happened to be behind the game winning TD pass again. However, for the third straight week, Forcier threw an interception (1). He was also sacked twice for -7 yards and appeared to have injured his shoulder in the game. Denard Robinson led Michigan on one touchdown drive (Minor TD) and was 2 of 3 for 39 yards passing and contributed 24 yards rushing.

Next week Michigan travels to East Lansing for it’s first road game of the season against cross-state rival Michigan State (1-3). Following last year’s 3-9 finish, and Saturday’s close win over overmatched Indiana, Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverine team are looking past no one this season. The Spartans are currently ranked last in the Big Ten standings despite a strong signing of recruits in 2008 and high pre-seasons praise and accolades from the local Michigan and national press. Despite the 1-3 start in 2009, it’s worth noting that 2 of MSU’s losses were by a total of only 5 points (CMU by 2 pts, Notre Dame by 3 points). The Spartans currently lead the Big Ten in offensive yards per game (439) and are 4th in scoring (33 pts/game). They lead the conference in total passing yards (1,283) and in first downs per game (24).

Being 4-0 is the best Michigan could have hoped for to this point of the season. The past victories provide this young Michigan team much needed confidence. But the Wolverines must make no mistake, Michigan State on the road will be the toughest opponent they've faced so far this year. This game will be a key determining factor as to how good the 2009 Michigan football team intends to be and how far they might go.

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