With little time to lick their wounds following an embarrassing season-opening loss to the defending national champs, the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines get back to action this weekend as they play host to the Air Force Falcons at the Big House in Ann Arbor.
Air Force is 1-0 on the young season thanks to a 49-21 triumph over FCS foe Idaho State. The Falcons, who are hoping to make some noise in the Mountain West Conference this year, are seeking just their 17th win all-time in this their 92nd game against a ranked opponent. Air Force last beat a member of the Top-25 in 2010 when it got past No. 24 BYU, 31-14, at home. Its last win over a ranked foe on the road was a 23-21 decision at No. 23 California back in 2002.
Michigan's clash with No. 2 Alabama last Saturday night in Arlington, Texas was supposed to the be the marquee matchup of college football's opening weekend, but the game got out of hand quickly as the Crimson Tide dominated to the tune of a 41-14 victory.
Head coach Brady Hoke was obviously disappointed in the outcome, "We didn't play Michigan football, and that is something that bothers our team, bothers the coaches. I don't think we played or tackled well enough on defense. We didn't control the line of scrimmage enough offensively," He continued, "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of things to correct."
The Wolverines were without starting RB Fitz Toussaint due to suspension, and they will be attempting to improve to 110-18-2 all-time in home openers this week. Michigan has won 15 straight home games during the month of September.
This game marks just the second meeting between Air Force and Michigan on the football field, with the latter winning the first at home back in 1964, 24-7. The Falcons are 5-9-2 against Big Ten teams, while the Wolverines are 3-1 against the Mountain West, and 6-0 against clubs that currently call the conference home.
Air Force got a sensational individual effort from RB Cody Getz in last week's season opener against Idaho State, as the diminutive senior ran for 218 yards and three TDs. QB Connor Dietz added 74 yards and a score on the ground, while tallying 142 yards through the air. In all, the Falcons churned out 490 rushing yards, and 628 yards of total offense. They did not commit a turnover.
Getz, who became the first Falcon to rush for more than 200 yards in a game since Chad Hall turned the trick in 2007, wont have it as easy this week against a more formidable Michigan defense, but don't expect Air Force to deviate from its plan much as it will stick with the run as long as possible.
While it's true they faced an inferior opponent, the Falcons put forth a stifling defensive effort against the run last week, limiting the Bengals to 66 net rushing yards. Idaho State did produce 365 passing yards, but that was done mostly in an effort to play catch-up.
Defensive back Steffon Bates and LB Austin Niklas posted 11 tackles apiece for the Air Force defense, which was credited with six TFL, which included two sacks.
As Denard Robinson goes, so does the Michigan offense. With the running game pretty much non-existent last weekend, Robinson had to go it alone in an attempt to keep the Wolverines relevant against what turned out to be a superior Alabama squad. The talented signal-caller threw for 200 yards and a TD, but completed just 42 percent of his passes (11-of-26) and was intercepted twice, one of which was returned for a TD.
Robinson carried the ball 10 times, but managed just 27 net yards. He did score a TD on a six-yard run late in the second quarter to put the Wolverines on the board, but they had been trailing 31-0 at the time. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon caught four balls for 107 yards.
Robinson, while acknowledging a total team breakdown in the opener, is even more critical of himself, "I didn't make the throws that I should have made and I feel that I didn't play as the Michigan quarterback. I've got to step it up and be more accountable."
The Michigan defense was shell-shocked in last week's opener, as Alabama scored three TDs in the first quarter to set the tone early. When the dust had settled the Crimson Tide had amassed 446 yards of total offense, including 247 on the ground. Shoring things up at the point of attack will be paramount to performing better against another potent rushing team in Air Force.
Safety Thomas Gordon led the UM stand against 'Bama, what there was of one, with nine tackles, while fellow DB Jordan Kovacs and LB Desmond Morgan logged eight stops each.