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College Football 2014: Week 2 Recap
Sunday, 2014 September 7 - 11:23 am
The Big Ten collapses into a big heap; N.C. State manages another comeback.

Michigan 0, Notre Dame 31
I had gone out Saturday evening and DVR'ed the game. I turned off my phone and avoided all media to keep myself from spoiling the outcome. When I got home, I eagerly queued up the game.

By the end of the first half, things looked bleak. But I watched the rest of the game looking for any kind of positive signs, things that Michigan could build upon for the rest of the season.

I didn't see any.

This felt a lot like Rich Rodriguez's last game, a game where Michigan was so thoroughly dominated that it was just demoralizing. I put this game squarely on the coaches: Michigan was underprepared and did not have a good game plan in place.

On offense, Michigan looked decent at times, gaining yards on quick passes and power runs. But when Notre Dame started jumping the short routes and crowding the box, Nussmeier didn't punish them by throwing over the top. We have a stellar receiving corps playing against a short group of defensive backs; why not run with vertical routes or even just some out-and-out jump balls? And yes, Devin Gardner faced a bunch of pressure when pass protection fell apart. But there are ways to counteract that: roll the pocket, play some screen passes, play some wheel routes. None of that happened. Oh, and the offense seemed to be playing at a glacial tempo; it never seemed like the Notre Dame defense was under any pressure.

On defense, again Michigan played decently at times; Notre Dame was held to 280 yards (9 fewer than Michigan, inexplicably). But after getting a couple of pass interference calls, Mattison went away from bump-and-run coverage and had the corners playing seven yards of cushion. That opened up a blizzard of short routes and easy conversions.

To be sure, there were player performance issues too. Devin Gardner was clearly not playing his best game, throwing three interceptions. The cornerbacks were getting beaten too easily. And Matt Wile missed two field goals by a pretty wide margin. One of those field goals would at least have kept us from being shut out for the first time since 1984.

Sigh. I guess the one bright note is that this is still a young team, and we can improve. But I need to see that Nussmeier is able to coach with a talent deficit, something that was Rich Rodriguez' defining characteristic. Michigan won't always be able to ram the ball down an opponent's throat.

Grades: Offense F, Defense D.
Heroes: Jake Ryan, Dennis Norfleet, Devin Funchess.
Goats: Greg Mattison, Doug Nussmeier, Brady Hoke.
Next week: vs Miami OH.

N.C. State 46, Old Dominion 34
This started looking bleak for State in the second quarter; a couple of stalled red zone opportunities and some soft defense let ODU jump out to a 21-10 lead. But the offense remained pretty steady; Jacoby Brissett had a stellar day, completing 21 of 29 passes for 253 yards. Shadrach Thornton had 86 yards at 6.1 YPC. So I think State is starting to find its groove on offense, at least.

The defense is still an issue. The ODU offense out gained the Wolfpack 504-495. The game might have turned out differently if not for just a couple of timely plays: an interception in the first quarter, a pass breakup in the fourth.

But a win is a win.

Next week: at South Florida.

Notable Games
#7 Michigan State's vaunted defense got drilled by #3 Oregon's high-powered offense; Oregon won 46-27.

#8 Ohio State lost to unranked Virginia Tech; I hope this deflates the hype about Ohio State. But it's bad for the conference that three of its highest-profile programs suffered bad losses this weekend.

#11 UCLA survived against Memphis 42-35. Some had UCLA as a possible title contender this year; they'll have to play better defense to make that happen.

#14 USC beat #13 Stanford 13-10 in a gritty hard-fought battle. The winning 53-yard field goal came with 2:30 remaining in the game.

#19 Nebraska squeaked by I-AA McNeese State 31-24 in yet another sign of weakness for the Big Ten.

Wisconsin crushed Western Illinois 37-3.

Penn State shut down Akron 21-3, and Maryland beat South Florida 24-17, but the rest of the Big Ten games were embarrassing. Central Michigan dominated Purdue 38-17. Northern Illinois beat reeling Northwestern 23-15. Minnesota managed to hold off Middle Tennessee 35-24; Iowa beat Ball State 17-13 on a last-minute touchdown; and Rutgers beat Howard 38-25. None of those wins are what you'd consider inspirational.

Arizona beat UTSA 26-23. The offense gained 454 yards but quarterback Anu Solomon was a bit off.
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