It’s a plot.
That’s it. A stinking plot. When Jim Harbaugh was sleeping over at Quinn Nordin’s house, all those many moons ago, once the flashlights went out and the comic books were put away for the evening, the Michigan Wolverines coach leaned over and made a pinkie-swear promise.
“Son,” he said, “you come to Michigan, we’re going to win you a Heisman.”
“But coach …”
“Young man, you just watch.”
Now we jest, of course, except for maybe the pinkie-swear bit. But you do have to ask yourself where this bunch would be without its sophomore kicker, who added five more field goals — tying a single-game Michigan record — to pace a 29-13 win over Air Force on Saturday.
Of course, you also have to ask yourself about an offense that has managed to wrangle one touchdown out of its 10 trips to the red zone through three games — only one against Power 5 competition.
— Christopher LaFuria (@LaFuriaChris) September 16, 2017
Where would Michigan be without Quinn Nordin? 😳
— Jay™〽️ (@MGoBlue1982) September 16, 2017
What if #Michigan tries to complete a pass with Quinn Nordin’s leg?
— Ian Casselberry (@iancass) September 16, 2017
Although let’s also say this, to put a somewhat nervy afternoon in some measure of context: As a dance partner for Big Ten Cupcake Week, the Falcons are the antithesis of sweet and fluffy.
On the best day, Air Force is a no-win proposition. Scrappy, disciplined, smart, savvy, good enough to be a pain for laps — many, many, many laps — but not good enough to beat you at the tape.
The triple-option is a fun teaching tool but it doesn’t always translate in a Big Ten that tends to prefer zone blocking or the zone read. But take your eye off the ball, for half a second, and it’s in the hands of someone else, streaking to daylight.
Win convincingly, it raises shrugs. Battle, it raises eyebrows. Lose, it raises flags. Although …
Air Force has not allowed a touchdown in seven straight quarters dating back to the first half of the 2016 Arizona Bowl vs. South Alabama.
— Troy Garnhart (@USAFASID) September 16, 2017
That said, you can’t go out of your way to help them, either. Michigan tailback Chris Evans fumbling the ball away with 6:15 left in the first half was fanning oxygen on a campfire that didn’t need to get lit in the first place. Forced to defend from its 44, the defense allowed 24 net yards on the next 12 plays, pushing the Falcons back from the Michigan 6 before conceding a 37-yard field goal.
The Wolverines held Air Force to 91 total yards in the first half — with all 91 on the ground. The Falcons managed 5 first downs in the first 30 minutes and were 0 for 5 on third down at the break. But they also didn’t plan to — or care to — throw, unless forced by down, distance or the clock.
Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman finally suckered the young Michigan secondary with 11:54 left in the third quarter, hitting Ronald Cleveland over the top for a 64-yard catch and run that cut a 16-6 home lead to 16-12. As the tug of war continued, the Wolverines held fast on the rope from there, but not without some bruises. And not without Nordin, who has 11 field goals three weeks into the season.
Quinn Nordin is going to set the record for most FG made in a season this year because Michigan can’t score in the red zone.
— Jacob K (@20JKP) September 16, 2017
Pinkie swear or not, 1 touchdown from 10 red zone trips is asking for trouble.
And it’s asking your defense and kicker, from here on out, to be perfect. Or damn near close.