Saturday, August 30, 2008
Final notes from the Big House
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Helmet stickers are coming a bit later tonight, but before I leave Michigan Stadium, some final notes and observations:
- Michigan sustained injuries to wide receivers Greg Mathews (ankle) and Junior Hemingway (shoulder). Safety Brandon Harrison didn't play the second half because of a groin injury. Running back Carlos Brown was limited with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor hurt his foot and was in a walking boot after the game.
- A road win against Michigan should never be minimized, even this season, so kudos to Utah. But if the Utes want to make a serious run at BYU, a Mountain West title and just maybe a BCS berth, they have to get better on special teams and limit silly mistakes. Blocked punts and fumbled kickoff returns will kill you in most games, and the Utes were flagged 15 times for 137 yards. "We've got to finish the game," running back Matt Asiata said. "We can't lay off. We've got to keep a swagger."
- The Wolverines defense showed in the second half that it can be legit this fall. The line consistently put pressure on Utah's Brian Johnson, and the secondary came up with several big plays. But the Wolverines can't afford to start games like they did Saturday. Linemen Brandon Graham, Will Johnson and Tim Jamison combined for seven tackles for loss. "We were coached up on how to make those plays, we just weren't doing it," said linebacker Obi Ezeh, who had a team-high 15 tackles and an interception. "The second half we came out and executed a little bit more. Maybe a lot of the young guys out there were a little nervous [in the first half]."
- We knew the quarterbacks would struggle, but Michigan has to generate much more from its running backs. Junior Brandon Minor showed the most promise before a fumble in Utah territory. Freshmen Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie looked good catching passes, but neither did much out of the backfield. "The running game was a huge disappointment," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Our offense didn't give the defense much chance to rest because we couldn't establish any long drives because we weren't running the ball effectively. ... There's a lot of precision involved in every offense and we didn't have that today."
- Michigan had seven first-time starters and 15 players make their collegiate debuts today.
- Rodriguez lost his first nonconference game since 2005, when West Virginia fell to Virginia Tech.