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.
Michigan may have one of the top defense sin the nation, if not just the Big Ten, but offensive worries are not hiding in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Michigan leads Air Force, 9-6, but have had to settle for two field goals on each of their two red zone trips.
Michigan took the game’s opening possession into the red zone but could not get past the Air Force 17-yard line before settling for a Quinn Nordin field goal. The Wolverines then fumbled away the football on their next offensive series when Chris Evans fumbled away a nine-yard gain. Air Force also took advantage by working their way into the red zone before Arion Worthman took a bad sack for a loss of 13 from the seven-yard line. That meant the Falcons had to settle for a field goal inside the red zone as well.
On the ensuing possession, Michigan again moved their way into the red zone, but Air Force stood tall and held Michigan to no gain from a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line on the next three plays. Nordin again came out for his second field goal. Nordin added a third field goal just before halftime to give Michigan the lead.
The Wolverines entered the game with the Big Ten’s worst red zone touchdown percentage at 16.7 percent, roughly half of the percentage Rutgers has had early on this season. Michigan may find a way out of this game at home, but that is going to be a key area to focus on moving forward regardless of what happens in the second half.
Some coaches will do just about anything to get a high school kid to commit to their program. In the case of Jim Harbaugh, he will go as far as to sleep over at a kid’s house and go to school with him the next day if it means getting a verbal commitment.
Harbaugh is preparing to go to great lengths to secure a commitment from the nation’s top kicking prospect, Quinn Nordin of Rockford, Michigan. Nordin is rated the number one kicker in the nation by Rivals and is currently verbally committed to Penn State (you may remember the music video announcement), although Michigan has been making a strong push on the recruiting trail for the in-state talent. Because nothing is ever official until the National Letter of Intent is faxed in early February, coaches are free to make any last-minute recruiting pitches possible. The dead period in recruiting is lifted this Thursday, and Harbaugh will be waiting at the front door of Nordin’s home at 12:01 AM to come in and spend the night with the top kicker.
“Under the exact rules, he’s going to be at my house at 12:01 he said. That’s when it’s legal for him to be at my house,” Nordin said to Scout.com‘s Allen Trieu. “He said we can watch a movie, see how well we gel and he said he would sleep over after that.”
Knowing this is a school night, Harbaugh even told Nordin he will go to school with the Michigan native and have lunch with him. But where would Harbaugh sleep?
“He told me if I had a 6-foot-3 inch piece of carpet for him to sleep on, that would be enough. I said we have guest rooms, and he said ‘Tell you what, I’ll just sleep on the floor in your room.’ I said ‘Coach, I have Penn State stuff all over my walls.’ He said, ‘Tell you what, I can help you take it down.’”
Ahh, college football recruiting.
On Friday morning kicker Quinn Nordin announced his decision to join the Penn State Class of 2016. While most kids these days are announcing their decisions on Twitter or Instagram, Nordin kicked things up a notch and rolled out a brief music video and took to Periscope to confirm his decision.
Really. He did. Check it out.
Nordin is a three-star prospect according to his Rivals recruiting profile, and the number-one ranked kicker in the nation. The Michigan native chose “I’m Coming Home” though to announce he is going to Penn State? This isn’t exactly LeBron James returning to Cleveland, right? But hey, why not let the kid enjoy his moment in the sun, right?