Michigan first-half observations: Speedy wide receiver Andrel Anthony gives UM spark

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

East Lansing – There has certainly been some good, certainly some bad for the Michigan Wolverines who lead Michigan State, 23-14, at halftime time in the annual in-state rivalry game.

Jake Moody has made three goals, including a 35-yarder with two seconds left in the half. He kept his cool after repeated timeouts taken by MSU to ice him. Freshman Andrel Anthony has been the offensive surprise of the first half for Michigan with two touchdown receptions. Tight end Erick All leads the team with five catches.

Andrel Anthony takes off for a 93-yard touchdown reception.

Michigan has come up with two interceptions of Payton Thorne, the first on the Spartans’ first series of the game by R.J. Moten. Three plays later, Michigan scored on a 93-yard pass play to Andrel Anthony.

The Wolverines got another interception, this time when Dax Hill, who has two picks this season, tipped the pass from Thorne high in the air and Mike Morris got the interception. Michigan settled for a field goal after getting the ball at the MSU 30-yard line.

On the Spartans final possession of the half, David Ojabo sacked Throne for an 11-yard loss.

But on Michigan State’s second touchdown of the game, Michigan blew an assignment in the middle of the field, allowing Thorne a 40-yard completion to Jalen Nailor and then the next play, Kenneth Walker III’s eight-yard touchdown run, Michigan’s defense wasn’t set.  MSU has 221 yards, including 116 passing.

Speedy freshman

The speed of Anthony, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman out of East Lansing High, has been talked about for weeks, but it seemed more like a rumor than a reality.

Against Northwestern last week, Anthony got his first collegiate touch, a six-yard carry. But against Michigan State in the first half, he gave the Wolverines a major spark.

On 3rd-down-and-4 during Michigan’s first series of the game, McNamara connected with Anthony who went 93 yards for the touchdown and the game’s first points. He had two catches for 108 yards, including a 15-yard gain on the first play after an interception gave the Wolverines the ball at the MSU 30-yard line.

Anthony made a leaping catch in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, this time from freshman J.J. McCarthy, who ran right and found his target in single-coverage.  The freshman receiver now has four catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Field goals – again

Michigan has stubbed its toe twice in the first half, coming up with field goals instead of touchdowns, a continuation of something that has plagued the Wolverines this season, particularly during Big Ten play.

The Wolverines got the ball at the MSU 30-yard line late in the first quarter after an interception, but Michigan had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from steady Jake Moody. Michigan reached the MSU 20-yard line its next possession on a 10-yard gain from Hassan Haskins. But three straight runs forced another field goal, this time from 38 yards. Moody is 17-of-19 so far this season.

Making a dent

Michigan’s offensive line was at full strength with the returns of guards Zak Zinter on the right side and Trevor Keegan, although Karsen Barnhart got the start. Particularly in pass protection, the line has been strong, giving quarterback Cade McNamara good protection, while the run game has not been able to gouge the defense.

Zinter and Keegan had been out with injuries, and Michigan had been going plug-and-play with Chuck Filiaga and Barnhart filling in. Barnhart has played at times at left guard during the first half.

A change for this game has been offensive lineman Trente Jones, who normally wears No. 53, playing today at tight end and wearing No. 80.