Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight talks about things that need fixing after the team's win over Cincinnati. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight knows there have been plenty of mistakes through the first two games.
Speight completed only 44 percent of his throws in the season opener against Florida and had glaring back-to-back interceptions returned for touchdowns. Against Cincinnati in the home opener on Saturday, he was 17-of-29 for 221 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions, but he lost one of two fumbles, a botched handoff to Kekoa Crawford.
He also missed a wide-open Donovan Peoples-Jones on a third-and-short and sent the ball high, an issue he had at times in the season opener.
“What it comes down to is when there’s something going on in my face, when I avoid the pressure and what not, I’ve got to keep my base,” Speight said after Michigan’s 36-14 win over Cincinnati as he explained why his throws sail at times. “Coach Pep’s (Hamilton) big on keeping my base, staying loaded.
“And sometimes when I avoid or move around in the pocket, I get a little sloppy with my feet, which causes the ball to sail or go a little low. That’s something I’ve been working on every day and continue to do so.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Speight will continue to improve.
“There’s different ways people throw,” Harbaugh said. “I can think of one that sailed, Donovan on the deep crossing route. He had a nice throwing lane. See the lane, see the throw and make the throw.
“You’re not going to be perfect. He went 17-of-28, 58 percent with a couple throwaways. Not bad. Could be better. We’ll keep striving for that perfection. People throw how they throw. He’s done it enough he’s going to hit most of them in my mind.”
The Wolverines’ offense was uneven against the Bearcats, particularly in the first half when it could not find a rhythm even after starting the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive. The final five drives of the first half went like this: fumble, field goal, fumble, punt, punt.
Running back Ty Isaac, who had 133 rushing yards, called the offensive issues “growing pains” because of the large amount of youth.
“Obviously, there’s times maybe we weren’t all on the same page,” Speight said. “That fumbled exchange with Kekoa, those are simple fixes. I’ll look at the film a couple times tonight, watch it again tomorrow and get those things fixed. I think overall it was a positive step forward from last week in Dallas.”
Crawford said the fumble was a result of miscommunication and said he was too close to the line and that’s what “ultimately caused the fumble.”
Late in the game, the two connected for a 20-yard pass play on fourth-and-8 on the Cincinnati 32.
“That’s been a big-time play for us really since coach Pep got here,” Speight said. “It worked against our defense for a month and not many plays do. We knew we were good at the play. I was fired up that coach wanted to go for it on fourth and eight, and I was able to fit it in the window as Kekoa came out of his break.”
Crawford, who had 83 receiving yards, including a 43-yard touchdown on that first drive, said Speight’s chemistry with him and the other receivers is improving.
“It’s getting better,” Crawford said. “It’s definitely starting to click a little more. We’re kind of firing on all cylinders now.”
Michigan’s red-zone offense also must start clicking. In two red-zone opportunities against the Bearcats, Michigan was 0-for-2 on touchdowns and settled for two Quinn Nordin field goals. Against Florida, Michigan was in the red zone four times and had one touchdown.
This will come with consistency, and Speight said that’s coming as the game slows down for him.
“It’s definitely slowing down with each game,” Speight said. “Some defenses are faster than others. Might be throwing more exotic looks than others, but at the end of the day it’s just football and I continue to tell myself that every Saturday. Things are slowing down, windows are opening up. Faster in my mind. I’m seeing things sooner. Hopefully moving forward it keeps trending in that direction.”