Michigan Wolverines: Air Force Falcons

3-point stance: Scoreboard watching

September, 5, 2013
1. You probably knew this already, but inflation has struck the scoreboard. Of the 10 longest scoring streaks in the history of the game, four are current: Michigan, which has scored in 353 consecutive games, is eight short of the record set by BYU (1975-2003). There’s also No. 3 Florida (309 games), No. 9 TCU (255) and No. 10 Air Force (247). The Wolverines were last shut out, 26-0, by Iowa in 1984, one of only two shutouts that Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler suffered in 21 seasons in Ann Arbor.

2. Frank Fina, one of the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky case, told 60 Minutes Sports that he found no evidence that the late Joe Paterno took part in any effort to conceal Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. “I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence,” Fina said, “not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.” Fina agreed, using Paterno’s own words, that the coach should have done more. That’s a long way from the Freeh Report. So someone with subpoenas exonerated Paterno. Maybe now NCAA president Mark Emmert will realize that he overreached. Probably not.

3. With the commitment of West Monroe, La., offensive tackle Cameron Robinson to Alabama, the Crimson Tide has 14 players in the 2014 ESPN 300, including 10 in the top 120. However, only two of those prospects are from the state of Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban has commitments from players as far away as California, Oklahoma, and Iowa. That’s a long way from 2008, when Saban found three future first-round draft picks in Alabama alone: Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Marcell Dareus.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's injury issues grew Saturday as the Wolverines took more hits on defense.

The Wolverines have already lost defensive lineman Chris Wormley and cornerback Blake Countess for the season to torn ACLs and linebacker Kaleb Ringer to a knee injury.

On Saturday, depth took a bigger hit -- temporarily -- with injuries to defensive linemen Brennen Beyer and Richard Ash.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- He ran out on the field wearing a new jersey. And by the end of Michigan’s 31-25 win over Air Force on Saturday, Jake Ryan had a career game to go with that new number.

[+] EnlargeJake Ryan, Jordan Kovacs
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireWearing the No. 47 legends jersey for the first time, Jake Ryan had a career-high 11 tackles.
During an afternoon when Michigan struggled defensively and couldn’t make many plays, often being unable to get off the field on third down, Ryan seemed to be around the ball almost the entire game.

Awarded the Bennie Oosterbaan No. 47 legends jersey before the game Saturday, Ryan recorded a career-high 11 tackles, including a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

“Just wearing it is amazing,” Ryan said. “I’m going to wear it with pride and represent him as well as I can.“

He did that Saturday. Michigan coach Brady Hoke told Ryan about a week ago he was selected to wear the jersey if he wanted it. He accepted it.

And now, Ryan said he feels like he is representing someone else whenever he is on the field, a three-time first-team All-America selection and one of the best players ever to play for Michigan.

“As we looked at the guys who, from a character standpoint and the standpoint of how he goes about his business every day, there wasn’t a better job than have Jake represent Bennie,” Hoke said. “As a staff we came up with that, and that’s the right guy.

“How he played, I think he made some plays in there and got on the ground sometimes. For me to say how he really played, I couldn’t tell ya. I know he played hard.”

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan was hoping for a strong rebound performance Saturday against Air Force.

It didn't quite get it. But the Wolverines did get a 31-25 victory in a game that came down to the final moments.

It was over when: Michigan redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan batted down a Connor Dietz pass with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the Wolverines the win. Air Force had been driving with a chance to win. Ryan also had a career-high 11 tackles.

Game ball goes to: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The Wolverines would have lost without him. He accounted for four touchdowns and 426 total yards of offense. He also was Michigan's sole running producer as starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had just 7 yards on eight carries.

Stat of the game: Michigan freshman tight end Devin Funchess had four catches for 106 yards, the first time a tight end has had 100-plus yards for the Wolverines since Sept. 13, 1997, when Jerame Tuman had five catches for 126 yards.

What we learned about Michigan: Michigan could have some major issues on defense. The Wolverines' defensive line struggled with being cut by Air Force's offensive line and then couldn't get around blocks when they weren't. The linebackers struggled to read the Air Force pitch correctly. The Falcons gashed their way to 290 yards rushing and left the Michigan front seven with questions for the second consecutive week. Robinson, though, played a lot better than he did against Alabama. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

Record performance: Robinson had the fourth 200-yard rushing game of his career. His two touchdown passes gave him 43 in his career, moving him past Steve Smith (42 touchdown passes) into fifth in school history.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After a week when No. 19 Michigan was dominated on both offense and defense, the Wolverines needed to show improvement against Air Force.

So far there has been some improvement, but still some concerns as Michigan entered halftime with a 14-10 lead on the Falcons.

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Five storylines: Air Force 

September, 6, 2012
Here are five storylines regarding Air Force, Michigan’s opponent on Saturday:

1. Replacing the center: Perhaps more than in any other offense, Air Force’s no-huddle wishbone relies a lot on the play of its center to set all the line calls and make things run smoothly up front. Against Michigan, this will be even more critical considering the size disadvantage. However, the Falcons will be breaking in a new center, Austin Hayes, after starter Michael Husar was lost for the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. How quickly Hayes adjusts will be critical to any Air Force success.

2. Running the no-huddle wishbone: Air Force’s best chance for success comes from its old-school, unconventional offense. None of these Michigan players have faced a wishbone team in college and none have seen it at the speed and crispness it can be played. An offense like this, which is led by quarterback Connor Dietz -- coincidentally a senior from Columbus, Ohio -- is predicated on timing and precision. It worked almost flawlessly Saturday as Air Force gained 484 yards rushing.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Brady Hoke is familiar with Air Force, having faced the Falcons and their option-style offense during his time in the Mountain West.

And the biggest key to it, from a defensive standpoint, is making sure to stay on assignments and sure tackling. This is something the Wolverines struggled with mightily against Alabama on Saturday.

“It’s always a challenge any time you get into a midline series offense,” Hoke said. “It’s a fun challenge because it really speaks of playing assignment football. We gameplanned way back, did very little this fall camp but we’ll start tonight.

“You can’t do too much because their personnel and what Troy [Calhoun] is doing, they’ve changed a little bit with going no-huddle right now.”

That’s a bit of a change than when Hoke faced him in the Mountain West, when the Falcons didn’t run out of no-huddle.

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Midwest week 1 top performers 

August, 27, 2012
It was a busy weekend covering games, and after close to 900 miles of travel, two states and six football games, it is time to reflect on what I saw.

I made it to Massillon (Ohio) Washington vs. Akron (Ohio) Buchtel on Thursday; Cleveland Heights vs. Toledo St. John’s on Friday; Detroit Martin Luther King vs. Southfield (Mich.) and Detroit Cass Tech vs. Brother Rice (Bloomfield, Mich.) on Thursday; and ended it with University School (Fla.) vs. Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) and Cincinnati Moeller vs. Baltimore Gilman on Sunday.

I tried to pick one top performer from each team, but it would have been unfair to do that for some of thee teams and players. But here is who impressed me the most this past weekend:

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