In a game that everyone thought Michigan would run away with, the Air Force Falcons put up a serious fight. However, the game ended in a 29-13 victory for the Wolverines.
It took 59 minutes, but Michigan scored its first, and only, offensive touchdown of the afternoon on a game-clinching 36-yard touchdown run by Karan Higdon.
The first half was fairly even, though. Michigan (3-0) couldn’t get much going on the ground, rushing for 82 yards to Air Force’s 91. The only major different was through the air as the Falcons didn’t attempt a single pass in the first half and Wilton Speight was 7-of-12 for 105 yards. He finished with 169 yards on 14-of-23 completions.
Air Force (1-1) needs to be credited with playing tough defense against the Wolverines, though. They pressured Michigan all game long and held the Wolverines' run game in check, outside of a long touchdown run by Higdon.
Michigan has to be frustrated with red zone woes, though. Through the first two games, the Wolverines had struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone, and that was the case in the first half as well. Zero touchdowns on two trips into the red zone. It didn’t get much better in the second half.
Michigan will have its first true road game next Saturday at 4 p.m. against Purdue in West Lafayette.
Michigan holds on
Air Force took over at its own 25 after the touchback. Nate Romine entered the game at quarterback and his first pass was incomplete over the middle, but a hands to the face penalty gave the Falcons a first down. Romine then rushed for a first down. He threw an interception on an ill-advised toss into triple coverage. Khaleke Hudson got credited for the pick, ending the game. Well, a Wilton Speight kneel down ended the game.
Michigan finally scores offensive TD
Michigan started at its own 27 and would be without Ty Isaac who was taken into the locker room. Karan Higdon carried the ball twice for about eight yards and Wilton Speight hit Tarik Black for 24 yards to the Air Force 42-yard line. Higdon rushed for three yards on first down and Air Force called a timeout. Chris Evans picked up a first down with a nice run and then had another decent run which was called back on a hold by Michael Onwenu.
On first-and-16, Chris Evans was dropped for a 2-yard loss and Air Force took its final timeout with under two minutes left. Higdon rushed for two yards to set up a third-and-16. Higdon then took the handoff 36 yards to the house for the Wolverines' first offensive touchdown. Michigan led 29-13.
Air Force goes three-and-out
After a sack to start the drive, Michigan's defense stepped up to force a third-and-long. Arion Worthman's pass was incomplete as he was drilled as he threw. Air Force would punt and Donovan Peoples-Jones signaled for a fair catch at his own 27.
Michigan punts after short drive
Wilton Speight's first down throw to Donovan Peoples-Jones was taken for 15 yards and another first down. Ty Isaac was stuffed for no gain on first and went down with an injury before being walked off to the sideline. A short pass from Speight to Tarik Black went for no gain as he was bottled up at the line of scrimmage. Another stop forced a Michigan punt that was shanked.
Air Force misses crucial field goal
Air Force began the drive at its own 15. Arion Worthman looked to get something going offensively, taking the first keeper five yards and lowering his shoulder for an extra yard. Timothy McVey rushed for four yards, but Chase Winovich was called for a defensive hold, giving Air Force 10 extra yards at the 34-yard line. A fake reverse pass by Worthman nearly ended in a pick to Khaleke Hudson over the middle. McVey took an option toss seven yards for a first down right at the marker. Michigan called its second timeout.
After Winovich blew up a first down run, McVey rushed 27 yards to the Michigan 32-yard line. Ronald Cleveland took a pitch about nine yards to the Michigan 23. Two plays later, Air Force pushed for a first down to the Michigan 21. Parker Wilson rushed for seven yards and Michigan was forced to take its final timeout to avoid an offsides penalty on a substitution. On second-and-four, Worthman picked up five. A couple of stuffed runs and an incomplete pass led to a field goal try and Luke Strebel missed wide left.
Speight struggles in red zone
Michigan started with good field position yet agin at Air Force's 46. Ty Isaac had a 1-yard rush on first, but then took the next handoff 45 yards to the house, but a hold by Kekoa Crawford negated the touchdown and pushed Michigan back to the 29. Wilton Speight connected with Tarik Black for seven yards and Karan Higdon was given a first down on a questionable spot after a 3-yard run to end the third quarter.
Speight nearly hit Eddie McDoom in the end zone, but the pass sailed just beyond his reach. Higdon rushed for no gain to set up third-and-10 and Jim Harbaugh would take a timeout. Speight tried to hit Black in the corner of the end zone, but it was thrown just too far. Quinn Nordin hit his fifth field goal, tying the school record and giving Michigan a 22-13 lead.
Falcons forced into punt
Air Force took over at its own 19-yard line after a short kick return. A first-and-10 pass attempt went incomplete, but a holding call moved Air Force back 10 yards to its own 9-yard line. A short run on first set up a second-and-18 but an incomplete pass down field set up a long third-down try. Arion Worthman kept it and gained about six yards as Michigan forced another punt. Donovan Peoples-Jones had another solid return into Air Force territory.
Wolverines' red zone struggles continue
Michigan took over at the Air Force 43-yard line. Ty Isaac ran for three yards and then Wilton Speight rushed for eight and a first down. Eddie McDoom caught a screen pass, made a nifty move and then gained five yards on first down. Karan Higdon rushed for just two yards and set up a third-and-three. Khalid Hill picked up the first on a short run. Speight then found Grant Perry for 13 yards down to the Air Force 8-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Michigan decided to run and Isaac was dropped for a 3-yard loss. Quinn Nordin made the chip-shot field goal to give Michigan a 19-13 lead.
Air Force goes the wrong direction
Air Force looked to take to the air again, but Arion Worthman was sacked for a six yard loss by Chase Winovich. Worthman then option pitched the ball as he was getting hit and it rolled back nine yards as Ronald Cleveland picked it up out of bounds for the loss. Worthman then rushed for a couple of yards, setting his team up for a punt on fourth-and-23. A short punt bounced backwards and gave Michigan great field position.
Michigan forced into another punt
Kekoa Crawford took the ensuing kickoff out to his own 20-yard line. Ty Isaac was stuffed on first down for no gain. Eddie McDoom then took a handoff for four yards to force third down. Wilton Speight then threw an incompletion into great coverage to force a punt. Air Force would take over at its own 32.
Air Force answers right back with 64-yard TD pass
For the second time to begin the half, Air Force would receive the kickoff which resulted in a touchback. Two runs for seven yards forced a third-and-three but Arion Worthman picked up the first with a 4-yard run. It was Air Force's first third down conversion. Worthman then surprised everyone with a pass over the middle to Ronald Cleveland who took it 64 yards to the house. Michigan still led 16-13.
Peoples-Jones gives Michigan first TD
Air Force received to begin the second half and started with a touchback. Parker Wilson was given the handoff on the first play and gained just a yard. Michigan hoped that tight defense would set the tone. Arion Worthman attempted his first pass of the game, but it was tipped into the air and nearly picked by Josh Metellus. On third-and-nine, Worthman was rushed, nearly sacked and threw and incomplete pass down the line while getting hit. Air Force punted to the Michigan 21 and Donovan Peoples-Jones returned the punt for a touchdown and the Wolverines led 16-6.
Air Force defense steps up in short field
The Wolverines started with great field position at the Air Force 40. Eddie McDoom took a reverse for nine yards and then Ty Isaac picked up the first down with a short run to the right side for about six yards. Wilton Speight was pressured on second-and-11 and was sacked by the Air Force rush and fumbled. On third-and-21, Isaac picked up four yards on a rush up the middle. Michigan would run the clock down to nine seconds in the half before attempting a long field goal. Quinn Nordin's 49-yard attempt split the uprights to give Michigan a 9-6 lead.
Air Force punts right back
Air Force began the drive at its own 16. The first run went for a loss of one and then Arion Worthman dropped back for his second pass play of the game and was nearly sacked but managed to gain three yards. To avoid delay of game yet again, Air Force burned its second timeout. The Falcons ran an option up the middle with Worthman and he gained just one. The Falcons punted, but shanked it, and Michigan got the ball to start its drive at the Air Force 40-yard line.
Michigan forced into punt
Air Force's kickoff was a short one and it was returned to the Michigan 31, but called back on a blatant late hit penalty by Ben Mason. Ty Isaac showed good patience on second-and-nine, picking up about 15 yards to the Michigan 32-yard line. A third-and-one run, Isaac was dropped for a loss of two and Michigan was forced into a punt.
Air Force ties game up on 50-yard FG
Michigan forced a touchback on the kickoff, giving Air Force the ball at its own 25. Arion Worthman rushed for 34 yards on a keeper down the sideline on a second-and-four. The next two option plays went nowhere as Michigan swallowed up Worthman to force third-and-nine at the Michigan 34. After calling a timeout to avoid a delay of game, Air Force was flagged for a false start. On third-and-14, Worthman got six yards on a keeper. Luke Strebel drilled a 50-yard field goal to tie the game at six apiece.
Michigan takes the lead back
Kekoa Crawford took the kickoff and was swallowed up at his own 15. After a short run by Ty Isaac, Donovan Peoples-Jones took a receiver screen pass for 37 yards. Two plays later, under pressure, Wilton Speight found Zach Gentry over the middle and he took it 30 yards down to the Air Force 9-yard line.
Speight overthrew his receiver in the end zone on first-and-goal, Eddie McDoom was tripped up on a reverse for no gain and on third-and-goal, Speights lob pass was tipped before it reached the goal line. Quinn Nordin was then forced into a field goal try from 26 yards. Michigan led 6-3.
Air Force knots the game up, 3-3
After taking over at Michigan's 44, Air Force ran a couple of option plays to work a third-and-three, but the Falcons were stuffed after a 2-yard gain. They would go for it on fourth-and-one and Arion Worthman got just enough for a first down by about an inch. Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot, but the first down was upheld. On an end-around, Timothy McVey rushed 15 yards down to the Michigan 7, but a personal foul penalty pushed Air Force back 15 yards.
On the following play, first-and-10 from the 22, McVey rushed for about six yards but a facemask call on Devin Bush gave the Falcons a first-and-goal at the 6. On two run plays that went nowhere, Air Force had a third-and-goal and attempted its first pass. The defensive line blew it up and Bush sacked Worthman for a big loss. Luke Strebel then kicked a 37-yard field goal. The game was tied 3-3.
Chris Evans coughs ball up
The Wolverines' second possession began at their own 24. Ty Isaac accounted for the first nine yards of the drive and then on third-and-short, he was tasked with getting the first down, and he did with a 2-yard rush. Chris Evans then took the next handoff and coughed the ball up. Air Force took over at Michigan's 44.
Air Force can't get much going on the ground
Air Force began its drive at its own 17 after great kickoff coverage by Michigan. Arion Worthman, Air Force's starting quarterback, is 6-0 as the team's No. 1 under center. The Air Force offense got a first down thanks to a Michigan offsides, but didn't do much else. Worthman was stuffed on third-and-five to force a punt.
Quinn Nordin puts Michigan on the board
Wilton Speight took a shot down the field on Michigan's first offensive play, but under-threw his receiver. He rebounded on a third-and-long by hitting Tarik Black who made a toe-tapping 14-yard catch for a first down, keeping the opening drive alive. The next play was a 32-yard run by Ty Isaac which looked like a touchdown, but he was ruled out of bounds near the 30-yard line.
Later, on a third-and-nine at the Air Force 17, Speight overthrew Grant Perry in the end zone. Quinn Nordin drilled a 35-yard field goal to end the drive.
Michigan takes aim at a 3-0 start in a noon game Saturday against Air Force. Follow the action here with live updates throughout the game by Connor Muldowney of The Detroit News.
MICHIGAN VS. AIR FORCE
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
TV / radio: Big Ten Network / WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 2-0, Air Force 1-0
Line: Michigan by 23.5
Series: Michigan leads 2-0