Michigan Daily Sports Editor Kyle O’Neill is not a collegiate athlete, nor is he a collegiate coach. But he was a starting wide receiver for his winless team at Garber High School, was third in Bay County in receptions his senior year and claims to know something about the game of football. So each game, we’ll let him and his 5-foot-10, 158-pound frame break down why Michigan either succeeded or failed.
Key play: Fourth quarter, 9:05; 2nd-and-6
1. Jason Avant definitely gets the Most Under-appreciated by the Media award. While all attention has gone to Braylon Edwards and the mythical No. 1 jersey or Steve Breaston and his road runner-esque speed, Avant just continues to be clutch. Third and long? Avant post or out routes take care of that with little problem. He also bides his time, as he caught just three balls in three passing attempts to him – all coming in one drive to set up a touchdown to Breaston. Two of the completions were to convert third-down attempts and keep the drive alive.
2. No Larry Stevens? No Ernest Shazor? No problems for the defense. Without two of its hardest hitters, Michigan’s secondary and defensive front looked just fine, showing the depth at the positions. Safeties Jon Shaw and Jacob Stewart filled in for the injured Shazor with nine tackles between them – seven of them being solo, open-field tackles. Shaw also had a pass deflection. And while Stevens’ constant pressure in the backfield was not replaced on every play, the front seven saw Patrick Massey develop into a big play maker with five tackles (three of them for a loss).
3. Freshman kicker Garrett Rivas should have made enough of a case on Saturday for the starting kicker spot. He seems to be money from the middle of the field and the left hashmark. His only miss has come from the right hash.
Explanation: Michigan’s offense struggled readily against Indiana thanks to its four turnovers, and the passing game took its hits when wide receiver Braylon Edwards was not entered into the game until midway through the second quarter. But by then, things were clicking, especially in the air for John Navarre. His final pass of the game was undoubtedly his best, as he connected with Edwards for a 15-yard touchdown strike. Guard David Baas and tackles Adam Stenavich and Tony Pape each won their one-on-one battles, while center Dave Pearson and right guard Matt Lentz dropped Indiana defensive tackle Jodie Clemons five yards out of the play. Edwards went in motion from the slot back position into a left flanker spot. He ran toward the left corner of the endzone before cutting toward the goalpost. Split end Jason Avant ran a post from the right side, fullback Brian Thompson ran a route into the left flats and tight end Andy Mignery ran an in route along the goalline. Navarre ran a play-action play to Perry and then dropped back for a quick throw. Indiana dropped into two-deep coverage as its linebackers and cornerbacks stayed underneath. Navarre saw Indiana free safety Joe Gonzales in Avant’s direction, and linebackers Kyle Killion and Josh Moore in Mignery’s way. Indiana strong side linebacker Kevin Smith dropped into the flat to cover Thompson. While Thompson was the safe bet, being three yards in front of Smith, Navarre was obviously looking for more. That’s where Edwards came in, as both the defensive backs on his side of the field got into position, but failed to account for where No. 1 was actually going. Edwards split the two defensive backs, and Navarre led him right into the endzone for a wide-open catch.