Michigan Football: Offensive Notes From Win Over Florida

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Tony Gutierrez

It was a rollercoaster of a game for No. 11 Michigan’s offense on Saturday, but it was good enough for a 33-17 win against No. 17 Florida at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in the season opener.

Redshirt junior Wilton Speight got the start at quarterback for Michigan — a move that was widely expected — over senior John O’Korn. He started off the game fine, and it appeared that Michigan had scored a touchdown, but the play was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. Despite the call, the Wolverines still netted a field goal on its first possession.

Speight was solid on his next drive too, hitting freshman wide receiver Tarik Black for a 46-yard touchdown later in the first quarter.

However, the good start disappeared quickly. Early in the second quarter, Speight threw a high, but catchable, pass over the middle to sophomore Kekoa Crawford that was tipped and intercepted by Florida senior cornerback Duke Dawson. The defender returned the pick 48-yards for the Gators' first touchdown of the game.

Just minutes later, Speight threw another pick. This time sailing a pass over junior Grant Perry to freshman cornerback CJ Henderson, who took it back 41 yards for a touchdown. It gave Florida a 17-10 lead.

The next time out, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made the move to put in O’Korn, who reportedly was going to see playing time anyway during the game. The backup signal-caller completed his lone pass for 37 yards and led Michigan to a field goal on his second drive, before Speight took over again under center.

Speight finished the day 11-of-25 passing, throwing for 181 yards, one touchdown and the two aforementioned interceptions.

The wide receiving core flashed its potential — Black caught two passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Perry hauled in four passes for 46 yards. The tight end position was well represented on the stat sheet, but not by the guys one might expect. Sophomore Sean McKeon caught three passes for 25 yards and redshirt freshman Nick Eubanks caught two for 61 yards; those marked the first catches of Eubanks' U-M career.

Crawford was the only other player to catch a pass, grabbing one for three yards.

Michigan’s backfield was impressive Saturday, led by fifth-year senior Ty Isaac's 114 rushing yards on 11 carries. Sophomore Chris Evans ran 22 times for 78 yards, while junior Karan Higdon ran in the lone touchdown and had 28 yards on seven carries.

Isaac was particularly impressive. He picked up several first downs on third-and-long situations and showed he isn’t someone other teams can overlook.

Michigan’s offense was clearly not in sync for large chunks of the game. Speight will have a lot to work on in the next few weeks before Big Ten play begins. However, the most worrisome aspect of the offense coming in was the line. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Nolan Ulizio was repeatedly taken advantage of, forcing Speight to throw balls away early or be sacked. Sophomore right guard Michael Onwenu struggled at times as well. Florida sacked Michigan quarterbacks five times.

Michigan’s biggest offensive star was redshirt freshman kicker Quinn Nordin, who made four field goals, including tries from 55 and 50 yards. He became the first kicker in program history to have two field goals from 50 or more yards in the same game.

Notes

· Michigan had a balanced 433 yards from scrimmage: 218 through the air and 215 on the ground.

· Saturday's attendance at AT&T Stadium was 75,802.

· With the win, Michigan ended Florida's 27-year season-opener winning streak, which had been the longest active streak in the nation.

· Saturday's game marked the fourth meeting between Michigan and Florida, with the Wolverines improving to 4-0 all time and 2-0 under Jim Harbaugh.

· Twenty Wolverines made their first career starts on offense, defense and special teams. Kekoa Crawford counted twice (once as a wide receiver and once as a kickoff return man), meaning 19 different players earned their first career start. Those offensive players were: freshman wide receiver Tarik Black and sophomore wideout Kekoa Crawford, sophomore offensive guard Michael Onwenu, redshirt sophomore tackle Nolan Ulizio and redshirt junior tight end Tyrone Wheatley. Sophomore running back Chris Evans and fifth-year senior center Patrick Kugler had previously started games, but not at the positions they opened Saturday's game.

Additionally, freshman offensive lineman Andrew Stueber and rookie fullback Ben Mason made their first career appearances at Michigan.

· With 61 players having had game experience prior to today's game and 14 making their debuts, 72 different Wolverines will have played at least one snap heading into next weekend's home opener against Cincinnati.

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