Michigan Wolverines Football: Miami, Positive Steps, and Recovery


Sep 13, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green (27) carries the ball against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The teams from the Mid-American Conference are supposed to be a warm-up game for big time programs like the Michigan Wolverines. Yet Michigan lost to Toledo in 2008, and nearly lost to Akron in 2013. It’s fair to say that’s more of a reflection of Michigan’s fall from grace than any significant improvement from MAC schools.

Saturday’s game seemed like it might be the latest addition to Michigan’s struggle. The Red Hawks of Miami (Ohio) had not won a game since 2012, yet they were tied with the Wolverines late into the second quarter.

It wasn’t pleasant for anyone who had to sit through Akron the previous year. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Derrick Green plowed into the end zone to put Michigan 17-10. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t still a great deal of unhappiness in the stands. The boos and jeers had been building up all game when Brady Hoke decided not to go for a fourth and one. Michigan then took a penalty to give punter Matt Wile a little more room to kick, but the ball still sailed into the end zone.

The boos began to rain down, with Hoke’s press conference assurances of aggressiveness echoing through the heads of fans. The boos were a response to the hypocrisy of not taking a chance. It was similar to the Notre Dame game last year, when Michigan didn’t try to extend its drive going into halftime.

Yet not everything was negative. The stat line itself was one redeeming factor. The Michigan defense held Miami under 200 yards, which is good even for a mediocre MAC team. Michigan gained 460 yards, with four running backs averaging at least four yards a carry.

In terms of individual performances, everyone had a bounce-back game of sorts. Devin Gardner refocused to throw for 184 yards with two touchdowns. His one interception was the result of an unlikely tipped ball. Derrick Green ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

The wide receiving corps was a question mark going into the game, as Devin Funchess’ absence meant others needed to step up. Amara Darboh was the preferred target, and he proved that his preseason hype was well deserved. Jake Butt also returned to action with three catches, one for a touchdown.

There wasn’t much to learn from this game. The quality of opponent was poor, and Michigan managed to decisively put away Miami after allowing them to stick around for a little bit. It was much more convincing of a response game than last year’s Connecticut, and that has to count for something.

The running game has been more consistent early this year, and it is encouraging to see a young offensive line start to gel. It didn’t do great against Notre Dame, and it is yet to be seen how they will play against elite units. But they are improving game by game, taking advantage of lesser teams to improve their craft.

The defense stepped up after having the secondary shredded by Notre Dame. The front four were consistently disruptive, and held Miami to 33 yards running. The defensive backs helped ensure that Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

This game was important for the Wolverines to improve on. The next game is Utah, a team that looks like it could be dangerous. The Utes destroyed inferior competition in their first two games, and Michigan will be a measuring stick for how good the team is. Utah is the last out of conference game, so it will be huge for the Wolverines to have momentum going into Big Ten play.

Miami is in the rear view mirror, and there aren’t any of the bad residual feelings of the Akron game. The Wolverines might just be alright.