It wasn't the complete annihilation that most were expecting, but in the end, Michigan was able to comfortably beat Cincinnati, 36-14, in the first game of the year at The Big House.
Wilton Speight (17-for-29, 221 yards, two touchdowns) was sloppy, regularly overthrowing his receivers and fumbling the ball twice on what should have been simple exchanges with his runners.
Grant Perry provided a bit of a safety blanket for Speight and the struggling punt return team. Perry hauled in four receptions for 66 yards, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put a team on the ropes up 24-14. Perry also spent the second half as the punt returner after freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones made a number of questionable decisions, one of which led to a turnover.
Kekoa Crawford led Michigan in receiving with four catches for 83 yards and a 43-yard touchdown in the first half.
Ty Isaac shined as Michigan's lead running back, going for 133 yards on 20 carries.
The Michigan defense was good, and though it's obvious that it still has some growing pains to go through, it also flashed a ton of potential. The pass rush was unbelievable, and the secondary returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Total yards: Michigan 414, Cincinnati 200
Hill's pick-six puts the game away
The Michigan defense put the game away with 4:21 remaining when Lavert Hill intercepted Hayden Moore and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
The secondary still has some growing pains to go through, but two pick-sixes are definitely a nice boost of confidence.
With the game coming to a close, Cincinnati coach and former Ohio State assistant, Luke Fickell, is throwing a fit on the sidelines.
It's 36-14 in favor of the Wolverines.
Botched punt leads to Michigan safety
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has had a hard time making timely decisions today, and now his team just made a disastrous play because of it.
Facing a fourth-and-2 in Michigan territory, the Bearcats had a decision to make about whether to punt or go for it. Fickell, who had already wasted a timeout this half, without much though, brought his entire team over to the sidelines before finally sending the punt team on with 14 seconds on the play clock. Hurried, the Bearcats snapped the ball with the punter unaware of the longsnapper's intentions, and the ball went through the back of the end zone, giving Michigan a safety and a 29-14 lead with 6:53 left to play.
In other words, the Wolverines appear safe.
Nordin field goal stretches Michigan lead to 27-14
Jim Harbaugh looked ready to let his offense go for it on fourth down for the second time in just a couple of minutes. After calling a timeout, he thought better of it and Michigan settled for a 24-yard Quinn Nordin field goal that puts the Wolverines up 27-14 with 9:02 to play in the fourth quarter.
Ty Isaac reeled off a 53-yard run on the first play of the drive to get Michigan into Cincinnati territory. Though the next three offensive plays went nowhere, Harbaugh decided to keep Nordin on the sidelines, going for it on fourth-and-8. That's when Wilton Speight hit Kekoa Crawford for 20 yards down to the 12.
Gary avoids ejection, Michigan defense gets big stop
Rashan Gary could have cost him team big time.
The lauded defensive tackle was called for roughing the passer with targeting on third down, giving Cincinnati a first down in Michigan territory. Though the targeting was rescinded, Gary did hit Bearcats quarterback Hayden Moore late. But that didn't stop the Michigan defense from bringing the house, hitting Moore hard on the next couple plays to force incompletions and get the ball back for the offense.
With 13:15 remaining, Michigan still leads 24-14.
Wolverines letting Bearcats hang around
They're not in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium.
The Wolverine defense was able to force a Cincinnati punt, but the offense was unable to put a stranglehold on the game by putting together a scoring drive.
Will Hart got enough another lackluster punt, and with 14:28 to play in the game, Michigan is not out of the woods yet with its 24-14 lead.
Speight to Perry stretches Michigan lead
Grant Perry took a short pass from Wilton Speight across the middle of the field and took it to the house on a 33-yard catch and run that puts Michigan up 24-14 with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter.
Speight also benefitted from a nice run after the catch when Zach Gentry raced for a 36-yard gain into Cincinnati territory earlier in the drive.
Perry has emerged as somewhat of a security blanket for Speight, who needs to get on the same page as some of his younger receivers.
Defense steps up for Michigan
Will Hart's punt was shanked out of bounds and didn't cross midfield, giving Cincinnati the ball in prime field position at the Michigan 46. Luckily for Michigan's offense, the defense was able to keep the Bearcats in check this time around by not giving up a single yard and forcing another Cincinnati punt.
With 5:17 remaining in the third quarter, Michigan still leads 17-14.
Speight's struggles continue in second half
Ty Isaac was able to run for 16 yards on two carries to open Michigan's first offensive possession in the second half. Wilton Speight continues to struggle, though, overthrowing receivers on consecutive plays as Michigan was forced to punt back to Cincinnati.
At the 9:26 mark of the third quarter, the Wolverines are clinging to a 17-14 lead.
Moore carves up UM defense to start second half
Hayden Moore made some big plays on the opening drive of the second half, the biggest coming on a 10-yard touchdown throw to Kahlil Lewis that cuts the Michigan lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
Moore made a couple of nice throws on third down to get the Cincinnati offense out near midfield to start the second half. Two plays after his second third down conversion, Moore went up the gut of the Wolverines defense on a quarterback keeper, reeling off a 46-yard scamper down to the Michigan 12.
The Bearcats just reeled off a 10-play, 85-yard drive.
Michigan leads Cincinnati, 17-7, at the half
Cincinnati worked its way into Michigan territory with the clock ticking under a minute, as Hayden Moore hit Gerrid Doaks for a 25-yard gain down to the Michigan 38. That's when the Wolverines pinned their ears back and forced Moore into two incompletions, followed by Kahleke Hudson's second sack of the day. On fourth down, the Bearcats appeared to be willing to just throw the ball away and go into the half down 10, but Mike McCray was called for holding, giving Cincinnati a new set of downs in field goal range. With nine second on the clock and no timeouts, the Bearcats returned the favor with a delay of game penalty. Now five yards further than he would have been previously, Josh Pasley tried for 51 yards and pushed the kick wide right to send these teams to the locker rooms.
At the half, Michigan leads 17-7.
The Michigan offense hasn't been humming for a while now. As the Wolverines defense continues to force punts from Cincinnati that sets the offense up with good field position, the Wolverines just can't cash in.
Wilton Speight has had a rough first half in terms of overthrowing his receivers and protecting the ball. Speight went 9-for-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
The run game hasn't had as much success as it did last week against Florida. Ty Isaac is leading the way on the ground with 10 rushes for 49 yards.
The Michigan defense has stayed dominant, as the only Bearcats score came after the punt return team fumbled away the ball in Wolverines territory. Cincinnati has just 105 yards of offense.
Wolverines fumbled in Cincinnati territory
Michigan looked primed to add to its lead with the ball at the Cincinnati 30, but Kekoa Crawford came looking for an end-around at full speed and the timing with Wilton Speight just wasn't there, as Michigan fumbled the ball away back to the Bearcats.
The longer the Wolverines allow Cincinnati to hang around, the more confidence the Bearcats are going to play with.
With 9:35 remaining in the first half, Michigan still leads 17-7.
Michigan settles for field goal to start second quarter
The Wolverines had the ball at the Cincinnati 3 to start the second quarter, but Wilton Speight wasn't able to execute a handoff with Ty Isaac, fumbling the ball back to the 10. On the next two plays, Speight overthrew both of his receivers, forcing Michigan to settle for a 28-yard Quinn Nordin field goal.
At the 14:03 mark of the second quarter, Michigan leads 17-7.
After a Michigan penalty set it up with a 2nd-and-15, Wilton Speight was able to hit Grant Perry for 18 yards and a first down near midfield. On the very next play, true freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones from Detroit Cass Tech took an end-around 44 yards down to the Bearcats 13.
Costly mistake sets up Cincinnati TD
The Michigan defense forced a three-and-out, but for the second time today, the punt return team wasn't able to locate the ball. This time around, Donovan Peoples-Jones wasn't able to jump on the ball to save possession for his team, and Cincinnati took over at the Michigan 38.
After two plays went nowhere, the Bearcats were able to pick up a first down when Hayden Moore hit Mike Boone for 11 yards. On third down from the 5, Lavert Hill was called for pass interference, giving the Bearcats the ball at the 2. The Michigan defense wasn't able to keep the ball out of the end zone, as Mike Boone pounded it in on third down for a score that cuts the Michigan lead 14-7 with 2:13 to play in the first quarter.
Also of note, Devin Bush appeared to be being checked out by team trainers on the sideline after taking a big hit on Boone's initial first down reception.
Kinnel's pick-six puts Wolverines up 14-0
Hayden Moore was confused by the Michigan defense on third down, and though he looked to the sidelines to get a new play, he wasn't able to get off the snap in time, pushing his team back five yards into the shadow of the end zone.
On his next crack at third down, Moore found Michigan's Tyree Kinnel at the 30-yard line, and the junior safety took the ball 28 yards to the house for a Wolverines touchdown that puts Michigan up 14-0 with 6:50 to play in the first quarter.
The rout, it appears, may be on.
Wolverines D gets early three-and-out
The Michigan defense didn't allow a first down and forced Cincinnati to use a timeout on its opening possession.
The Bearcats came out trying to throw the ball on their first three plays, and quarterback Hayden Moore did hit Devin Gray for six yards on second down, but Moore and his receivers looked lost on first and third down.
Speight finds Crawford for early TD
Well, that certainly didn't take long.
Michigan got into Bearcats territory, and on first down, Wilton Speight used the play-action fake and hit Kekoa Crawford for a 43-yard touchdown strike that puts the Wolverines up 7-0 with 11:54 to play in the first quarter.
After a big day on the ground last week, Ty Isaac got the start in the backfield and carried the ball on the first four plays of the game. He picked up a first down and 23 yards on those first four carries.
On third and long near midfield, Speight hit Crawford on a crossing rout for a first down into Cincinnati territory.
Wolverines primed for home opener
That Michigan defense. Is it possible it could be better than last year's senior-laden squad that many pegged as the best in the country?
While we aren't likely to find out the answer to that question until Michigan takes on Penn State in mid-October, it certainly looks like a unit filled with bigger and faster players than last year's unit. And while it is a young squad, it has time to mesh with games like today's against Cincinnati.
So what Wolverine fans will really be looking for over the next few weeks is consistent quarterback play, as Wilton Speight has shown a propensity to throw interceptions that the other team turns into touchdowns. The redshirt junior needs to find some consistency. Game's like this won't prove anything to his detractors if he plays above average, but any misstep will be feasted upon by those that want Jim Harbaugh to turn the offense over to someone else.
Cincinnati is coming off an awful showing in their win over Austin Peay last week. With the Wolverines opening their home schedule at The Big House today, they shouldn't have much trouble coasting to victory. Games like today are all about getting timing down and doing the little things right so that this team can be ready when the big stage comes calling.
MICHIGAN VS. CINCINNATI
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
TV / radio: ABC / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050
Records: Michigan 1-0, Cincinnati 1-0
Line: Michigan by 34
Series: First meeting