Wolver­ines lean on kick­ing game for win over Air Force

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - UW REPLAY - LARRY LAGE

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Wil­ton Speight handed the ball to Ty Isaac, who was stopped for a loss, and No. 7 Michi­gan had to set­tle for a field goal. Again.

The Wolver­ines over­came their of­fen­sive strug­gles, with Dono­van Peo­ples-Jones re­turn­ing a punt 79 yards for a score and Quinn Nordin ty­ing a school record with five field goals in a 29-13 win over Air Force.

While the Wolver­ines are still un­de­feated, they have a lot of work to do on of­fense. In the red zone, their strug­gles have played out for all to see and Speight didn’t hide his feel­ings in one, raw mo­ment Saturday.

Michi­gan has had 10 drives in­side op­po­nents’ 20, in­clud­ing four against the Fal­cons, and has scored only one TD with those op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Speight had an op­tion to call a run or a pass when Isaac was tack­led be­hind the line in the third quar­ter and re­acted to the re­sult by flail­ing his arms.

“I should prob­a­bly keep that in,” the quar­ter­back said. “Ob­vi­ously, the frus­tra­tion built up. They fooled us. We thought we had the look we wanted and as soon as I went down to fo­cus on the snap, they brought the house.”

In­stead of crit­i­ciz­ing his team’s lack of pro­duc­tion in the red zone, Jim Har­baugh gave credit to Air Force’s coach­ing.

“They def­i­nitely called the bet­ter play on some of our red-zone throws and runs,” Har­baugh said.

The Wolver­ines (3-0) didn’t lead by more than three points un­til Peo­plesJones’ touch­down early in the third quar­ter, and late scores turned a closely con­tested game into a rel­a­tively lop­sided score.

The Fal­cons (1-1) failed to con­vert a pass un­til Arion Worth­man threw a short slant to Ron­ald Cleve­land and the re­ceiver turned it into a 64-yard TD with 11:54 left in the quar­ter that pulled the service acad­emy to within three points. That was their only com­ple­tion of the game.

“It felt like there were 13 guys out there some­times,” Worth­man said. “They were fly­ing around there for sure.”

Air Force had won seven straight, dat­ing to last sea­son, in­clud­ing a win over No. 20 Boise State.

THE TAKE­AWAY: AIR FORCE–The young Fal­cons should leave the Big House en­cour­aged that they were com­pet­i­tive in a game they were ex­pected to lose by three-plus TDs.

MICHI­GAN–The Wolver­ines are off to an awe­some start on de­fense and spe­cial teams, but their woes on of­fense will catch up to them against bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion.

JUST FOR KICKS: Nordin helped Michi­gan pull away with field goals in the third and fourth quar­ters. Mike Gil­lette (1988), J.D. Carl­son (1990) and K.C. Lopata (2008) also kicked five field goals in a game for the Wolver­ines.

ON OF­FENSE: Speight was 14 of 23 for 169 yards, miss­ing some tar­gets and hav­ing some passes dropped. Isaac ran for 89 yards on 16 car­ries for the Wolver­ines. He was slow to get up af­ter get­ting tack­led on his last carry in the fourth quar­ter and didn’t re­turn, but re­place­ment Karan Hig­don didn’t think it was a se­ri­ous in­jury.

“I’m pretty sure he’s good,” said Hig­don, who sealed the vic­tory with a 36yard TD run with 1:02 left.

Worth­man ran for just 60 yards on 26 car­ries, di­rect­ing Air Force’s triple-op­tion of­fense, which wasn’t very ef­fec­tive when the op­tion was to throw. Worth­man was 1 of 7 and his re­place­ment, Nate Romine, threw an in­ter­cep­tion on two at­tempts.

“They’re a stout group. Im­pres­sive squad,” Air Force coach Troy Cal­houn said. “Cer­tainly may win a bunch of foot­ball games this year. Their size, their ath­leti­cism, they’re a pretty com­plete group.”

UP NEXT: AIR FORCE–Hosts San Diego State on Saturday in their Moun­tain West opener.

MICHI­GAN–Plays at Pur­due on Saturday in their Big Ten opener be­fore com­ing home to play ri­val Michi­gan State for the first time at the Big House since the Spar­tans turned a botched punt into dra­matic vic­tory.

RICK OSENTOSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS

Michi­gan wide re­ceiver Tarik Black can’t quite get to the pass as he’s de­fended by Air Force Fal­cons de­fen­sive back Mar­quis Grif­fin on Saturday.

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