By Will Burchfield
No. 5 Michigan notched its second straight blowout to open the season, knocking off Central Florida 51-14 Saturday afternoon at the Big House. Through two games, the Wolverines have outscored the opposition by nearly 100 points. Saturday’s performance was another dominating one, although a couple of flaws came to the forefront.
Here are five takeaways from Michigan’s second game of the season:
Spurred by Speight
Picked off on his first throw last week, quarterback Wilton Speight came out firing against UCF. He threw three touchdown passes in the first 20 minutes of play, including a 45-yard strike to Amara Darboh on the first play of Michigan’s fourth drive. The Wolverines were looking to stretch the field early and Speight was every bit the facilitator.
“When the quarterback throws for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, that’s a great performance. It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say he’ll probably be our offensive player of the week,” said Jim Harbaugh.
For all of the talent on Michigan’s roster, it is a peculiarity that stands out the most: the Wolverines have eight fullbacks. One of them is Khalid Hill, a senior who had played exclusively at tight end entering this season. Harbaugh converted him to a fullback last spring and has deployed him in goal-line situations in the early stages of the season. At 6’2, 260 pounds, Hill has thrived in his new role, scoring three touchdowns in the first two games…on just six carries.
“Coach called my number,” Hill said. “He didn’t really say it, but when he calls the play I know that he’s trusting me to get in the end zone. That was my job and I got it done.”
After dominating the line of scrimmage in the season opener, Michigan’s offensive line showed some vulnerabilities today. UCF registered eight tackles for loss, including two sacks and three quarterback hits. And the Wolverines weren’t nearly as explosive running the ball, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. That’s surprising given the experience on the O-line, which features three seniors and a junior, but Speight said it was simply a product of each team’s game plan.
“They were teeing off, bringing a lot of people [against the run] and that was a result of the success in the play-action game, so when we would hand the ball off they were coming hot. That was just the defense. And we knew we were going to rely on the play action and deep shots this week more than the run game, so it’s really nothing to worry about,” he said.
Line Troubles, continued
Just as the O-line yielded a bit Saturday, so did the D-line show some cracks. UCF rushed for 312 yards and two touchdowns, including an 87-yard scamper by Adrian Killins, who beat Michigan’s linebackers to the edge and then outran the defensive backs down the sideline. Quarterback Justin Holman also took off on a number of successful scrambles, racking up 67 yards on seven carries.
“300 yards rushing is not what you want as a defense, especially as a defensive line. It was those rush lanes on the scrambles,” said defensive end Chris Wormley. “To give up those plays, to us is unacceptable. We gotta look at the film and clean up the mistakes.”
Gary Gets His
Number one overall recruit Rashan Gary made his first big impact this season, tallying six tackles and a half-sack. The hulking defensive end showed his power up the gut and his explosiveness off the edge, wreaking havoc in the UCF backfield all afternoon. He received more playing time this week than he did last, a trend that figures to continue as the season presses on. As for his first college sack, Gary was all smiles.
“It was a great moment,” he said. “I was itching for a sack this week because I didn’t get one last week. I missed one against Hawaii, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to miss any opportunity I get from now on.’”