Harbaugh backs Speight despite Michigan's red-zone problems

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
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Michigan's Tarik Black can't find the handle after Air Force's Marquis Griffin tips the ball on this pass play in the third quarter.

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh offered praise for second-year starting quarterback Wilton Speight.

Speight was 14-of-23 for 169 yards against Air Force in Michigan’s 29-13 victory on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, but the fact Michigan has only one touchdown in 10 trips to the red zone has been an issue.

The Wolverines had 359 yards of offense, including 190 rushing, but their first offensive touchdown came on Karan Higdon’s 36-yard run with just more than a minute left in the game. The Wolverines relied to that point on five Quinn Nordin field goals and a punt returned 79 yards for a touchdown by Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Harbaugh focused on the positives when asked where he thinks Michigan’s offensive consistency is three weeks into the season.

More: Wojo: For UM to be dominant, offense has to catch up

“The run blocking, the protection has been really good,” Harbaugh said. “That was a big question mark coming into the season, coming into camp, what our offensive line would look like replacing (three) starters. That’s been really good. The backs have been strong, the quarterback’s been strong.

“He’s quarterbacking the seventh-ranked team in the country, 3-0 record. He’s quarterbacking the winningest program in all of football, the history of it. So it’s good to be Wilton Speight. We just keep forging ahead, keep making improvements. I like where our team is headed.”

Speight said he will have to watch the film to understand why the offense isn’t scoring touchdowns. He said Air Force disguised its defense well.

“We were moving the ball, moving the ball, moving the ball up and down the field, then getting in the red zone,” Speight said. “Maybe they changed up the looks. They were holding blitzes until the last second when it was too late to check out of the play. We’ll have to look at the film and get better at it.”

Defensive lineman Chase Winovich shied away from talking about the offense.

“It’s there,” he said. “We’re not perfect, either. Everyone has got to do their job. It’s the little details. We’re so close to being such a great team.”

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