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Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Squib kick misses mark, freshmen see time and other notes from Michigan's win against EMU

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team's victory against Eastern Michigan on Saturday showed a lot of good, a little bad and a touch of ugly.

The Wolverines' special teams, at times, looked ugly in the 31-3 rout. Michigan's squib kick with 39 seconds left in the first half is a perfect example. The stratagem can work sometimes, but this was not one of them.

The call was especially egregious against a team such as the Eagles, who passed just six times the whole game. Could they have traversed a long field in such a short time?

Likely not.

But the squib gave the Eagles the ball at their own 47-yard line, and they needed just four plays — all runs — to get into position for a 50-yard field goal. That's just too easy.

The game was a blowout, and Eastern Michigan missed the field goal anyway, so this point is moot as far as Saturday is concerned. But that play call made little sense, and could cost Michigan against a more able opponent.

Other notes from Saturday's win:

Michigan misses Hagerup
Michigan was crushed in the field-position battle in the first half, when its average starting point was its own 14-yard line. Eastern Michigan averaged its own 42-yard line.

That partly was due to inequality in punters.

Eastern Michigan's Jay Karutz was solid all day, averaging 43.6 yards per attempt and topping out at 53. Michigan's Matt Wile averaged 35.0 yards per attempt and topped out at 41.


Vincent Smith and the rest of the Michigan return team have yet to record a return longer than 25 yards this season.

Angela J. Cesere |

Wile, a freshman, has been serviceable while starter Will Hagerup serves his four-game suspension, but there's no doubt Michigan misses the sophomore. He will sit out Saturday against San Diego State (noon, BTN), then return for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota.

The sorest moment came with little more than 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Wile, standing deep in his own end zone, punted to his own 39-yard line. A 15-yard return gave the Eagles the ball at Michigan's 24-yard line and led to their only three points of the day.

Return of a kick return
Michigan has yet to record a kickoff return of longer than 25 yards this year. Its average of 18.6 yards per return is 102nd in the country.

Junior Vincent Smith, who excelled in the run game against Eastern Michigan but had kick returns of 17 and 14 yards, just might not have enough vertical speed to get the job done.

While Darryl Stonum's redshirt hurts Michigan in the passing game, the return game also has been afflicted.

Young guys see field
Michigan's comfortable second-half cushion allowed several young players to see the field, most notably freshmen cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, freshman tailback Thomas Rawls and sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner.

Each of those players is considered an important piece to Michigan's future.

Rawls had two carries for 4 yards, Gardner had one carry for 7 yards and Taylor and Countess each had one tackle.

The one unexpected note here was the lateness of Gardner's entrance, which came with 1:17 left in the game. That seemed especially late, considering the blowout.

It was surprising when starting quarterback Denard Robinson came on the field to start a series with 10:46 left in the game and Michigan leading 28-3. This seemed to be a good moment for Robinson to bow out. The only reason that comes to mind for sticking with Robinson is maybe the coaching staff wanted to get more snaps for a unit that had just 89 plays in its first two games.

Still ...

Other true freshmen who played were kicker Matt Wile; linebackers Desmond Morgan and Brennan Beyer; and defensive end Frank Clark. Redshirt freshmen who played were linebacker Jake Ryan and safety Josh Furman.

Johnson's role diminishing
Sophomore safety Carvin Johnson played little against Eastern Michigan and recorded only one tackle. After struggling with communication and alignment issues against Western Michigan, Johnson, who started three games and appeared in nine as a freshman last year, clearly is slotted behind starters Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon and might have a hard time seeing the field.

Roundtree, Hemingway come up empty
Michigan's top wideouts of Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway did not record a catch against Eastern Michigan. Perhaps more astounding: They were targeted, by my unofficial count, two times.

Robinson's troubles in the passing game were glaring and gruesome against Eastern Michigan, and the receivers' limited impact (five catches) surely is a function of that.

The victory boosted Michigan into both major top 25 polls. The Wolverines are 22nd in the AP ranking and 21st in the USA Today poll.

Losses by the right teams had a role in Michigan's ascension, but Michigan's play so far indicates there are more than 20 or 21 teams better than the Wolverines right now.

Still, Michigan will be favored to win its next three games and doesn't play a road game until Oct. 8 against Northwestern, so it might be there to stay — at least for a while.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Maybe I missed the explanation somewhere... But I see Ramon Taylor aslo wears #21 but he does not have the Desmond Howard patch?


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

The kicking team is clearly the biggest weakeness. I think Jeremy Gallon shows a lot of potential. He almost took one back to the house but holding in the backfield negated that return. We know that we will not see Darryl Stonum this season so we will have to make due and hope Gallon can get a few more great returns like he did against EMU. Will Hagerup is coming back in time for Minnesota and that should be a big plus. Inconsistent sums up our offense in both running and passing. Vincent Smith had a great game Saturday but he seems to come up big against the MAC teams. If he can do the same thing against SDSU this Saturday and continue that when we face Minnesota, then we will have turned the corner. The passing game was dissappointing at best against EMU. I don't know what's going on with Roy Roundtree's game against EMU. I don't expect the Maize and Blue to play up to the 1997 or 2006 standards next game or all season but the kicking game has to improve and the offense needs to score early in the game. The defense is the biggest bright spot thus far.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

For afreshman, Wile has done a solid job. But, it's obvious he still needs to develop as a kicker. His kickoffs are getting to the 5 yard line at best, and sometimes 5-10 yards shorter. As he develops more strength and practices, that should improve. And we didn't bring him in here as a punter, so I'm not concerned unless Hagerup screws up again. But, we can also see the loss of Stonum in the kickoff return game. He is much better than either Gallon or Vincent Smith. The latter just doesn't have the acceleration and straight line speed to effectively return kicks.