Michigan closed its nonconference schedule with a 29-13 win against Air Force on Saturday, but the Wolverines didn’t struggle with defending against Air Force’s triple-option offense. Instead, it struggled to find consistency in its own offense.
Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin kicked five field goals and Michigan’s first touchdown came on a special-teams play. Freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones scored on a 79-yard punt return about a minute into the second half, and Karan Higdon scored Michigan’s only offensive touchdown with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter on a 36-yad run.
Quarterback Wilton Speight was 14-for-23 passing, for 169 yards for Michigan (3-0), which opens its Big Ten Conference schedule at 4 p.m. ET Sept. 23 at Purdue.
Michigan-Air Force live updates, score
FINAL: Michigan 29, Air Force 13. Karan Higdon scored Michigan’s first offensive touchdown of the game with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter, on a 36-yard run.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 16, 2017
Khaleke Hudson intercepted Air Force quarterback Nate Romine with 19 seconds left to effectively seal the win for the Wolverines.
Michigan 22, Air Force 13 (7:19, 4Q): Stalled drives are becoming part and parcel of this game, but this could pay dividends for Michigan in the long run. Luke Strebel goes wide left on a 29-yard field-goal attempt.
Michigan 22, Air Force 13 (14:15, 4Q): Quinn Nordin kicks his fifth field goal, a 36-yard attempt. Nordin is the first Michigan kicker with five field goals in a game, which ties K.C. Lopata, who kicked five in a 29-6 win at Minnesota in 2008. Also:
Nordin’s 5 FGs ties single-game #Michigan record with Gillette (‘88), Carlson (‘90) and Lopata (‘08)
— Larry Lage (@LarryLage) September 16, 2017
End third quarter: Michigan 19, Air Force 13. Ty Isaac appeared to score a 45-yard touchdown, but the run was negated by a holding penalty against Kekoa Crawford with 37 seconds left. Michigan opens the fourth quarter on the Air Force 19, and needs more than a field goal here.
Isaac, btw, is 10 yards away from having his third 100-yard rushing game.
Michigan 19, Air Force 13 (2:59, 3Q): Quinn Nordin kicks his fourth field goal of the game, a 29-yarder, that ends another red-zone drive for the Wolverines. Michigan just cannot produce in the red zone: they’re 1-for-9 on touchdown attempts inside the 20-yard line.
Michigan 16, Air Force 13 (11:54, 3Q): Air Force needed only 1:57 to make this a 3-point game again, asRonald Cleveland broke away for a 64-yard touchdown catch from Air Force quarterback Arian Worthman. Remember what Devin Bush said earlier this week about what would happen if Air Force attempted to pass?
Michigan LB Devin Bush on Air Force: "They're not going to pass the ball too many times. If they do, we've got something for them.
— Rachel Lenzi (@RLenziCMG) September 12, 2017
That’s out the window.
Michigan 16, Air Force 6 (13:51, 3Q): Donovan Peoples-Jones has undoubtedly won his job as punt returner back. The freshman from Detroit’s Cass Tech ran for a 79-yard touchdown on a punt return, and used some nimble footwork along the Air Force sideline to stay inbounds and complete the long run. We’re seeing so much more confidence from Peoples-Jones in this game.
The second half is underway at Michigan Stadium. Time to see if the Wolverines can reverse their offensive fortunes.
Halftime stats: Michigan 9, Air Force 6
HT stats: Michigan 9, Air Force 6 pic.twitter.com/APoBOzB2lY
— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) September 16, 2017
Michigan’s offense is productive (105 passing yards, 82 rushing yards), but isn’t consistent, especially not at or near the red zone and when it comes to scoring touchdowns. Michigan had three second-quarter drives, but the final drive, that ended with Nordin’s 49-yard field goal, was Michigan’s best chance to break this game open. Instead, Air Force sacked Speight twice, first from the 24 and then from the 25 (which resulted in Nick Eubanks’ fumble recovery — a saving grace for the Wolverines), but got no measure on third-and-21 from the Air Force 35.
It’s a mish-mash of mistakes — the OL allowing “bad” holes, the running backs unable to find footing. This isn’t just on Speight.
Michigan 9, Air Force 6 (0:09 2Q): Michigan ends the first half with Quinn Nordin’s third field goal, a 49-yard kick.
There’s 2:55 left in the half. Michigan A) needs to eat up the clock and B), score a touchdown.
Michigan 6, Air Force 6 (8:37, 2Q): This one’s for kicks. Air Force kicker Luke Strebel ties it on a 50-yard field goal. (Hashtag: #ShadesofNordin).
Someone has to crack this game open. This is already a battle of attrition in the first half.
Red zone worries: Michigan has now had eight possessions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line the first 10 quarters of the season. The Wolverines have 1 touchdown by Karan Higdon and six Quinn Nordin field goals to show for it, the latest from 26 yards. That’s too many points left on the field.
Also, a note on Air Force’s defense.
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
Michigan 6, Air Force 3 (11:48, 2Q): Michigan goes straight to the pass on its opening drive of the second quarter. Three of Michigan’s first four plays are passing plays, and on first-and goal from the 9, Speight sends a pass out of reach of a leaping receiver in the back of the end zone.
However, Speight can’t get a shovel pass off on third-and-goal, despite a long scramble, as a defender batted away the attempt. Quinn Nordin’s second field goal gives Michigan a 6-3 lead.
End of the first quarter: Air Force 3, No. 7 Michigan 3.
Air Force 3, Michigan 3 (0:02 1Q): Air Force’s Luke Strebel kicks a 37-yard field goal to tie the game.
Evans’ fumble — which should have been challenged, not the fourth-down spot — sets up Air Force’s first trip to the red zone. However, on third-and-goal from the 7, Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman couldn’t find an open receiver (despite at least two in the end zone) and is sacked by Devin Bush at the 20.
Michigan 3, Air Force 0 (5:03, 1Q): Chris Evans fumbled the ball at the Michigan 44, giving possession to Air Force. It appeared Evans’ knee hit the ground before the ball popped out, but the play wasn’t reviewed (and should have been).
Four plays later, Air Force converts on fourth down on Arion Worthman’s short run, but Jim Harbaugh elects to challenge the spot. The ruling on the field stands, and Michigan loses a timeout.
Michigan 3, Air Force 0 (10:51, 1Q): Wilton Speight is throwing from the start, critics be damned. He was unable to connect with Kekoa Crawford on a long pass on the first play from scrimmage — Air Force did a nice job in coverage — but Speight connected with Tarik Black on third-and-12 for a 15-yard catch and first down.
Ty Isaac is also 1/3 of the way to having his third consecutive 100-yard game. He has one carry for 32 yards. He appeared to score on a long TD run, but was called out of bounds at the Air Force 30.
Michigan, however, couldn’t capitalize in the red zone — Speight’s third-and-9 throw from the 17 was out of the reach of Grant Perry in the corner of the end zone. Quinn Nordin’s 35-yard field goal gives Michigan a 3-0 lead against Air Force.
A telling stat: Michigan is now 1-for-7 on touchdown attempts in the red zone.
Pregame, 11:56 a.m.: An injury update for Michigan:
Radio says Wheatley does have "an unspecified injury" … he didn't warm up https://t.co/eyVGEDzE4L
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 16, 2017
Pregame, 11:51 a.m.: Michigan is honoring the military Saturday, and the Air Force Wings of Blue paratrooper team made its entrance into Michigan Stadium.
WATCH: they're landing at Michigan Stadiums https://t.co/fGeBZR2usY
— Rachel Lenzi (@RLenziCMG) September 16, 2017
Pregame, 11:34 a.m.: There are a few special guests in Michigan Stadium today:
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) September 16, 2017
Also, Michigan has designated its honorary captains.
Michigan's honorary captains today are Sean Magee, Kevin Tolbert and Jim Minick. All three served in the military. https://t.co/xWkLZhY6Vy
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) September 16, 2017
Pregame, 11:15 a.m. ET: Freshman WR Oliver Martin is in uniform during warmups. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday Martin was dealing with an “upper extremity” issue. Also, no sign of RB Kareem Walker with the running backs.
Michigan-Air Force game time, details
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Weather: Mostly sunny, high 81 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain.
The line: Michigan -23.5
What TV channel is showing Michigan-Air Force?
The Michigan-Air Force game will be televised on BTN.
How can I watch Michigan-Air Force online?
The Michigan-Air Force game can be watched online at BTN2Go.
How can I listen to Michigan-Air Force on the radio?
Michigan-Air Force preview
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has been talking about preparing for Air Force and its flex-bone offense since before spring practices began. His wait is over as the Wolverines take on the Falcons for the first time since 2012 when they needed Denard Robinson’s 426 yards of total offense and 4 touchdowns (two by air, two by ground) and a late defensive stop to pull out a 31-25 victory.
The Wolverines have been led by their defense in victories against Florida (33-17) and Cincinnati (36-14). The defense has outscored the Florida and Cincinnati offenses 21-17 and its three touchdowns are the most in the nation. The starting defensive line of ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, and tackles Mo Hurst and Bryan Mone are controlling the line of scrimmage, freeing the linebackers and secondary to flow aggressively to the ball and make tackles. The Wolverines have 18 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks.
Air Force’s forte is running the ball out of the option look, but the Falcons are also capable of throwing the ball efficiently. Brown has talked about his players needing to be disciplined in their assignments more so than normal because of the misdirection and various looks Air Force will show on offense. Junior quarterback Arion Worthman is 6-0 as a starter. He had 33 yards and 1 touchdown rushing and 172 yards and 2 touchdown passes against VMI. Air Force’s top running back is senior Tim McVey, who rushed for 98 yards and 1 touchdown in the opener. McVey also caught 3 passes for 77 yards.
U-M used a lot of two-tight end alignments last week against Cincinnati as the Wolverines sought to take advantage of greater size vs. UC’s linebackers and safeties. There will be a similar size advantage for the Wolverines against Air Force, so don’t be shocked to see more double-tight end schemes and a lot of running backs Ty Isaac, Chris Evans and Karan Higdon. Isaac has had back-to-back 100-yard games to start the season but any of the three players are capable of having big games.
Speight is still working on his accuracy. He has missed several throws high in the first two games. Speight has done a good job of shaking off bad plays, moving on to the next play and coming up with timely completions when he’s needed, but he’s still working on being more consistent with his footwork. That’ll be something to watch. Wide receiver Grant Perry leads the Wolverines with 8 catches for 112 yards and 1 touchdown this season.