UM fails miserably in first home test as Utah rolls
Ann Arbor -- This was supposed to be a statement game of sorts for Michigan. And not because of the lightning strikes that suspended action at 6:25 p.m. with 7:51 left to play in the fourth quarter and forced the evacuation of Michigan Stadium, which had an announced crowd of 103,890.
The game was resumed Saturday after nearly two and a half hours at 8:49 p.m., but even a lengthy delay couldn't help the Wolverines.
Michigan needed to make a statement with a victory at home over Pac-12 opponent Utah, but the Utes prevailed, 26-10. Utah has won the last two meetings with Michigan, including a 25-23 win at Michigan Stadium in 2008.
"(We're) disappointed, but our goal, which is a Big Ten championship, is still out there," Michigan center Jack Miller said. "We'll keep striving for that goal. I think there's a lot of potential on this team, and there's a lot of season left and guys haven't lost faith at all.
"I don't know if I have all the answers. The thing we know we can do is go to work every day and practice hard and prepare the best we can. If we do that, we let the chips fall where they may and see what happens. We're just focused on doing our best and hopefully those things will start to piece together for us."
That storms did not provide the only "lightning" of the game, though. Before the end of the first half, Michigan's Frank Clark sacked Utah quarterback Travis Wilson for a 13-yard loss. That would have been a 43-yard field goal attempt.
But Michigan was penalized 5 yards for sideline interference, making it a 38-yard attempt, and Michigan coach Brady Hoke was captured by ESPN cameras yelling, expletive censored, at defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to get off the field. Mattison angrily responded and threw down his headset. Hoke after the game said it was just a "discussion."
After beating two overmatched opponents at Michigan Stadium this fall, Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), Utah was the first real test at home for the Wolverines, with its high-powered offense ranked third nationally in scoring.
But it went from bad to worse for Michigan in the second half. They are 2-2 this season, including a 31-0 loss at Notre Dame. What do the two losses have in common? Michigan failed to score an offensive touchdown and failed to reach the red zone.
Hoke made a quarterback change during the Utah game, with Shane Morris replacing starter Devin Gardner, and left open who will start the Big Ten opener Saturday against Minnesota. However, Hoke said he does not believe the offense needs a facelift.
"I don't think there has to be an overhaul," Hoke said. "Our execution, the little things we need to do, again, that needs to start here (with coaching). We've got to do a better job with that part of it. I have a lot of faith in those guys who are out there on the field."
Michigan trailed 13-10 at halftime, their only touchdown coming off a defensive score when Willie Henry returned an interception 7 yards for a touchdown, but the Wolverines generated very little offensively.
The Wolverines allowed Kaelin Clay to return a punt 66 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Utes a 10-3 lead.
Gardner, who has struggled this season with six interceptions and a fumble this season, was 14-of-26 for 148 yards and two interceptions. He was pulled after his second interception.
Morris entered the game with Utah leading, 26-10 and with just less than 11 minutes left. He moved the Wolverines to the Utah 49-yard line, then threw an interception.
Michigan entered the game among the nation's worst in turnover margin at minus-seven and built on its total. Including the Gardner and Morris miscues, including one that came after the delay, the Wolverines are minus-10 for the season.
When the game resumed after the lengthy delay, Utah's drive ended with a field-goal attempt by Andy Phillips, who was 4-for-4 in the game. Phillips' 41-yard attempt on the rain-slicked field hit the left upright and was no good.
On the Wolverines' next series, Morris completed a 15-yard, third-down conversion pass to Jehu Chesson. Morris fumbled the next play.
After Michigan's 31-0 loss at Notre Dame, Hoke endorsed Gardner and said he was Michigan's quarterback. He was asked after the Utah game what the plan will be at quarterback.
"No. 1, I think it's way too early for me to assess that until (offensive coordinator) Doug (Nussmeier) and myself look at the tape. One thing I can tell you, sometimes it's good for the guy to come out and just watch and see what he can see from the sideline and look at rotations of coverages. Look, there's not going to be any answers for that tonight. We will compete and challenge like we have every day, and we will have a starting quarterback against Minnesota."