Freshman kicker Quinn Nordin kicked a school-record five field goals to help No. 7 Michigan (3-0) overcome red zone deficiencies in a hard-fought 29-13 victory against Air Force (1-1) Saturday afternoon in Michigan Stadium.
For the third straight week, Michigan’s offense continued to sputter at best, leaving some questions for the Wolverines as they prepare to enter Big Ten play next week. Michigan managed to score just one touchdown against the Falcons, and the Wolverines really showed some warts trying to move the ball. Give Air Force credit for the defensive effort they presented, but Michigan only converted three of 11 third-down attempts and was unable to score a touchdown on any of their four red zone trips. It may not have cost Michigan a win today, but at some point, that trend cannot continue if the Wolverines are going to make a run for the Big Ten championship this fall.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was never pulled from the game, but his day was far from impressive as the leader of a Michigan offense still trying to find itself three weeks into the season. Play calling lacked creativity at times as well, but that just means there is room for improvement for Jim Harbaugh and his squad. Fortunately for Michigan, they have a kicker who continues to be automatic from any distance early on and the defense continues to rise to the occasion.
Air Force did find something to work with in the second half as they worked to tire down Michigan’s defense using their trademark option attack, but the Wolverines proved to have the decisive edge anytime Air Force tried to mix things up using their speed. Michigan was just faster. On a fourth-quarter drive, with Air Force trailing 22-13, a promising drive was thwarted when the Falcons tried running Timothy McVey to the right side. The Wolverines gobbled him up behind the line of scrimmage inside the red zone and Air Force kicker Luke Strebel sailed a field goal attempt wide left. Air Force probably needed to get a touchdown on the drive anyway, but the missed field goal midway through the fourth quarter felt like a near knockout blow for an Air Force offense not known for quick drives.
Michigan now enters Big Ten play looking to finish what they failed to do a year ago; win the Big Ten East Division, and perhaps the Big Ten championship. The defense is locked in for the job. Next week, the Wolverines head to Purdue to take on a Boilermaker team that has looked like a new program this season under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Purdue is playing at Missouri today and has already pushed Louisville into the fourth quarter. Can Michigan avoid an upset next week?
Air Force will return home for a big Mountain West Conference game against San Diego State. The Aztecs will be coming off a home game against Stanford.
So much for that wagering momentum, I guess.
Entering the 2017 season as not only the reigning winner but also as seemingly an afterthought, a pair of scintillating performances to open the year pushed Lamar Jackson to the head of Bovada.lv‘s Heisman Trophy pack. Coming off a 26-point Week 3 loss to now-No. 2 Clemson in which he totaled nearly 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns, the Louisville quarterback has seen his odds lengthen a bit from 7/4 a week ago to 11/2 in Bovada‘s latest Heisman release.
Bovada’s new betting front-runner? Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who went from 4/1 to 7/4. Sam Darnold, 6/1, also saw his odds shorten slightly to a Jackson-match 11/2.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, 10/1 in the previous odds release, is now at 9/1, same as the holding-steady-from-a-week-ago Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
There’s also, interestingly, one true freshman on the board: J.K. Dobbins. The Ohio State running back went from off the board to 40/1 odds. His starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett, saw his odds go from 25/1 to 33/1.
Below is the latest set of 2017 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv.
Illinois has an immediate addition to its quarterback room. Or its wide receivers room, depending on how things play out.
Pete DiNovo confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times Monday that he has decided to transfer to the Illini. The acknowledgment comes a month after DiNovo decided to transfer from Central Florida.
As a graduate transfer, DiNovo would be eligible to play immediately this season. Per the player, a former high school teammate and former high school coach currently at Illinois played a role in his decision.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out,” DiNovo told the Times. “I can come up here and learn from Lovie (Smith) and everyone else on the coaching staff.”
DiNovo began his Knights career as a quarterback — he replaced Blake Bortles as UCF’s starter before being quickly replaced himself — before being moved to wide receiver before being moved back under center this offseason. How the Illini will use DiNovo, who has an eye on a career in coaching after his playing days are over, remains to be seen.
Not surprisingly, UTEP will stay in-house following its in-season dismissal of one of its coordinators.
The Miners confirmed Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had been fired. A day later, the football program announced that Brian Natkin has been given the keys to the offense by Sean Kugler and will call the plays moving forward.
Natkin began the season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. He was an All-American tight end at UTEP a decade-and-a-half ago and became a full-time assistant at his alma mater in 2011.
Through three games, UTEP ranks second-to-last nationally in total offense at 204.7 yards per game and in yards per play (3.89). The Miners are also 125th (out of 130 teams) in scoring at 13 points per game.
The promotion of Natkin also means there will be some additional adjustments to Kugler’s staff. Wide receivers coach Chuck Veliz will take over Pease’s other role as quarterbacks coach, while safeties coach Don Yanowsky assume Natkin’s duties as special teams coordinator.
Natkin will continue in his role as tight ends coach.
Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton was taken away on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless on the Reser Stadium turf on Saturday.
Family members were called to the field, where medical professionals stabilized an apparently unconscious Luton and removed his face mask. The game continued, of course, as Oregon State lost to Washington State 52-23 despite Luton’s 179 passing yards and 22 rushing yards.
Luton tweeted on Saturday night that he’ll “be back.”
Luton has since been discharged from the hospital, according to The Oregonian, though his father posted a message stating Luton was probably dealing with a “thoracic spine fracture.”
Oregon State is off Saturday before hosting Washington on Sept. 30.