So, no fairy tale finish this time round. In fact, the game was more like the original Grimm Tales, as the Wolverines walked all over the Mountaineers in a 52-14 blowout. Even so, there were a few good performances, and that's gives the team, and the fanbase, something to look forward to this season.
Quarterbacks: Kameron Bryant was the returning starter, and was expected to be a key player in this game, but he struggled all day, completing 8 of 19 passes for 58 yards and a TD. Most of his passes were short range, to little effect. He did lead a nice 6-play, 75-yard drive for a TD, where he had his longest pass of the day - a 34-yard pass to Jaylan Barbour. He rounded out the drive with a TD pass to Simms McElfresh. That scoring pass was Bryant's first third-down conversion of the game. Taylor McLamb came in for the fourth quarter, and immediately had an impact, mixing up some nice passes with the running of redshirt freshman Terrence Upshaw on a 19-play, 96-yard drive for a TD, and led a 63-yard drive that ended on downs. McLamb completed 9 of 14 for 69 yards.
Running Backs: Marcus Cox picked up an injury during the week, but wasn't 100%, and it showed. He didn't play the entire game, carrying 11 times for 47 yards and a TD, but had a couple of nice runs. Upshaw got most of the carries, with 18 attempts for 109 yards, gaining consistently good yards. However his play was waylaid by the sputtering passing attack. His best runs were 27 and 19 yards.
Receivers: The gameplan seemed to be getting the ball out of Bryant's hand in a hurry and getting his receivers to do the work. Fine in theory, but said short passes were gobbled up by Michigan's athletic defense. Any longer passes were either batted down, or misfired. McElfresh led in receptions with 5, but gained just 25 yards, although he did have an impressive TD reception. Barbour led in yards with 40, but had just 2 receptions. Dante Jones came in for the last drive, and caught a couple of passes for 25 yards and a pair of first downs.
Offensive Line: The line wasn't that bad in the game. They were obviously decent at run blocking, paving the way for 153 yards and opening some nice holes for the Upshaw and Cox. They gave up just 2 tackles for loss against a solid Michigan front line. The unit was less effective against the pass rush, allowing 2 sacks, and also 4 quarterback hurries, despite a predominantly short range passing attack. That's not terrible though, and it's hard to hold the line responsible for the passing game woes. The grade is more for the run blocking but give them a...
Defensive Line: Lets make this simple - if you give up 350 yards on the ground, your line probably isn't doing its job. The run defense was okay early, but wore down as the game went on, with Michigan's strength and depth just too much for the Appalachian State front. Starting end Ronald Blair made 3 tackles and a sack, while Olawale Dada, the reserve on the other side, also had 3 tackles, with 1 in the backfield. Overall, the unit had 9 tackles, 3 for loss, and the sack, but struggled getting after the quarterbacks. Not bad numbers, but when your linebackers can't get upfield to make tackles, you've got to put it on the guys up front.
Linebackers: Is it possible to objectively grade the linebackers when the line struggled to keep them clean? Absolutely. When most of the tackles are made by defensive backs, there is a problem. ILB John Law and OLB Kennan Gilchrist each had 5 tackles to lead the unit, while freshman ILB Devan Stringer made the most plays, making 4 tackles, with 2 in the Michigan backfield. He is more of a nickelback though. It was a tough day at the office for the unit, who weren't involved in the game enough.
Secondary: We can be a little kinder to the secondary, who found themselves besieged by Wolverines with little help from the front seven. Not only was there no pass rush, the safeties had to devote too much time to defending the run. Against the pass, the secondary allowed Devin Gardner to complete 13 of 14 passes for 173 yards and 3 TDs, and the Michigan QB often threw to wide open receivers. Cornerback Dante Blackmon did pick off backup Shane Morris though. Free safety Doug Middleton led the team with 8 tackles, while AJ Howard made 7 at strong. Middleton's reserve, freshman Treyon Garnett, came third with 6.
Rating: C (mostly for run support)
The Bottom Line: Was it all so terrible? Not really. When all is said and done, this game played out more or less as it should, with the big boys pummeling the little boys, who wore down after a solid start. There are a few positives, such as the stepping up of Upshaw to give the Mountaineers a good 1-2 punch at running back going into the season. Bryant and the receivers should build up a little more confidence with Campbell next week, and beleaguered Southern Miss following, while the offensive line should be able to reassert itself. The defense wasn't good last year, so it's still a work in progress, but should hold up better against similar talent.
Overall rating: C-