It certainly wasn”t pretty, but it still counts as a “W.”
This oft-used sports axiom is one that the Michigan football team might be reciting to itself after Saturday”s less-than-impressive 38-21 victory over Western Michigan. Paced by three touchdowns two of them rushing by B.J. Askew, the Wolverines completed their nonconference schedule with a 2-1 record.
Still, Saturday”s victory left a lot to be desired, a fact Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was all too willing to point out after the game.
“If the nonconference schedule is supposed to prepare you for the Big Ten schedule, then we”ve got a lot of work to do,” Carr said.
Western Michigan”s first possession of the game was an indication that this would be a tough day for Michigan. Led by quarterback Jeff Welsh, the Broncos” spread offense caused all sorts of problems for Michigan”s pass defense.
Starting at his own 26-yard line, Welsh completed four of five passes for 52 yards as Western Michigan drove into Michigan territory. But Victor Hobson”s sack of Welsh at the Michigan 27-yard line forced the Broncos” Robert Menchinger to attempt a 44-yard field goal, which he left five yards short.
Michigan”s offense took advantage of the missed opportunity by driving 73 yards in nine plays. With the ball at Western”s 41-yard line, Michigan quarterback John Navarre tossed a screen pass to Askew, who raced down the left sideline for the touchdown.
“You never know exactly what I”m going to do back there,” Askew said. “Every time I was out there, they were yelling “Screen! Screen!” but I was running and the blocking was awesome.”
Michigan extended its lead to 10-0 before Western Michigan scored. Following a Michigan punt, Broncos tailback Phillip Reed took a handoff on a draw play, cut to his left and rumbled 37 yards. On the next play, Welsh hit wideout Micah Zuhl for a 17-yard touchdown, cutting the Broncos” deficit to 10-7.
But, the Wolverines snuffed out any momentum the Broncos had by driving 78 yards in five plays on the ensuing possession. The big play came when Navarre connected with Calvin Bell for a 47-yard gain down to
the Broncos” 13-yard line. Three plays later, Askew took a sweep eight yards for his second touchdown, extending Michigan”s lead to 17-7.
Welsh then committed a critical error when he was intercepted by Todd Howard at the Michigan 35-yard line with the half winding down
Navarre wasted little time capitalizing on the turnover. On the third play of the possession, Navarre lofted a 40-yard bomb to Marquise Walker, who made a fingertip catch in the end zone that broke the Broncos” backs.
“I thought the biggest play of the game was Todd Howard”s interception before the half,” Carr said. “We hit a big play there.”
Despite holding a 24-7 halftime lead, Michigan couldn”t be too happy. The biggest problem for the Wolverines one that continued in the second half was penalties.
Michigan was whistled for 13 penalties in the game, nine in the first half alone. Six of those nine penalties were either offsides or false start violations.
“That”s ridiculous,” Carr said about the penalties. “This is the third game of the year. You should have thirteen penalties in three games. It”s just unacceptable.”
With the game essentially over by halftime, the second half was devoid of drama. The Wolverines and Broncos traded touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters.
The one bit of intrigue that came out of the second half was news of injuries to two of Michigan”s offensive stars. Tailback Chris Perry left the game in the first half with a knee injury, and Navarre twice banged his throwing hand on helmets. The extent of Perry”s injury isn”t known, while Navarre brushed off his problem as nothing that will force him to miss any games.
What can”t be brushed off is Michigan”s generally sloppy play on Saturday. Carr offered a warning to his players after the game.
“If we don”t start to be a more disciplined team than that, we”re going to have a hard time,” Carr said. “We”re either going to learn, or we”re going to learn the hard way.”