There are two times every year when I wake up in the morning and the “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” song lyrics perpetually cycle through my head. Neither of which is during the Christmas season.
One is Opening Day for the Tigers and the second is the first Michigan football game.
My apartment is close enough to hear echoes of the marching band practicing. Close enough to hear the legendary voice of Carl Grapentine testing the sound system the night before. Close enough to wake up to the sound of small propeller planes circling around the stadium with banners flapping behind them.
Michigan football has always been a passion of mine. A passion that only few people on this planet truly understand (or tolerate). While growing up in Ann Arbor it has a way of getting into your blood and growing stronger with each passing year.
It has already been well documented that Michigan had fallen from grace during the Rich Rod and Hoke eras, but hope springs eternal as it finally has the feel of a program on the path back to greatness.
I will not try to break down game film or explain why Don Brown decided to use a certain nickel package against Hawaii when they lined up with trips to the right. MGoBlog is the end all be all when it comes to that in depth knowledge and insight.
As a knowledgeable fan, I simply wanted to put together some of my initial reactions. I recorded the game on my DVR and have watched it more than once (I will not share how many times to make sure I am not viewed as a maniac). Below are some initial thoughts and reactions that I made note of from yesterday:
- First and foremost, (the most obvious) is the decision to have Wilton Speight start at QB for 2016 season. He didn’t exactly hit the ground running as he started the game with an interception on a pass that he held for way too long and ended up throwing late. He found himself backed up in the shadow of his own goal post on the second drive that started at the two yard line. He methodically marched the offense down the field for a drive that was capped off on a nice throw to the corner to Grant Perry. It was refreshing to see him face some early adversity and remain poised as he played within himself and didn’t force the issue. I also think he has a little Philip Rivers in his delivery.
- The defense is nasty (duh). Early on it looked like a shutout was inevitable and Hawai’i would struggle to finish the day with positive yardage. Mike McCray stood out to me though. He played with high energy and always seemed to be involved in the action whether it was pressuring the QB, forcing a fumble, or picking up a tackle for loss. Which is refreshing considering one of the few question marks surrounding this team was the play from the linebacker position.
- Hawai’i is not a good football team. A lot of this has to be taken with a grain of salt.
- One of my favorite plays was Moe Ways’ only catch on the day. We saw Speight feeling the rush and showing a little mobility while directing Ways with his off hand before throwing an accurate ball before he crossed the line of scrimmage for a first down.
- Chris Evans is the real deal. In other news the sky is blue and the sun will set in the west tonight. He is exciting any time he has the ball in his hands and I look forward to how they expand his role in the offense. Whether that is throwing quick screens to him out of the back field or lining him up in the slot position, I can’t wait to see more.
- Considering it was the first game, it was very clean with excellent execution in all facets regardless of the level of competition that they faced. Michigan as a team only had three penalties for 33 yards. None of which were jumping offsides, false starts, or sloppy holding penalties which seem to haunt most teams early in their seasons. I also thought that the tackling was exceptional. Another aspect of the defensive game that some times takes a game or two of live action to sharpen. They were also 100% (7-7) on 3rd Down conversions for the game. We didn’t get to see who will handle the punting duties, which sounds like one of those good kind of problems to have.
- Maybe it’s his number, but Grant Perry reminds me of a young Mercury Hayes. Eddie McDoom (one of the greatest names in sports) reminds me a young Steve Breaston. He isn’t as much of a long strider as Breaston was, but that comparison jumped out at me when seeing him running those two jet sweeps. One of my other favorite plays of the game was a slant that he ran and made a great catch with his hands with the defender draped all over him. It only went for eight yards, but he didn’t look like a freshmen there at all.
- Injuries in any sport are scary. Brian Mone (who missed all of last year with an injury) went down again and was supposed to have an MRI last night. Everyone was hoping for good things from him this year, but for his sake, everyone is hoping it’s nothing serious and any time he has to miss is limited. Taco Charlton had an ankle too, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t sound too serious either. We as fans will probably be in the dark regarding injuries as Harbaugh is good at keeping secrets. With all the expectations and hype surrounding this team, it would be a shame to have injuries play a major role in the outcome of this season. So let’s all make sure that our karma is in good shape and we don’t do anything to rock the boat with the Football Gods.
- Some other players who were dealing with minor injuries were held out yesterday (Braden, Lewis, and Hurst), so it’s scary to think the defense could get even better when it’s All American cornerback returns next week.
- Lastly, as I’m sure you and your mother have already heard by now that yesterday marked a new Michigan record with more freshmen seeing the field than any other year in the history of the program. What I think is most important to note is not only did these freshmen see the field, a majority of them stood out. From Devin Asiasi making technically sound blocks, to Khaleke Hudson reading plays from the safety position and making good hard tackles. Top recruit Rashan Gary pressured the QB a handful of times and Lavert Hill had air tight coverage and a pass break up late in the 4th quarter. The future is bright.
There is a lot to like about this team. There are playmakers everywhere you look. They were impressive in their first test of what we all hope will be a special season for the Maize and Blue. There will be growing pains in some regards, but they have enough to talent to overcome them and grow into one of the best football teams in the country.
On to Central Florida. Go Blue.
[Photo Credit to Bryan Fuller – MGoBlog]
Check out the rest of the photo gallery from yesterday here.
There are some great photos in there.