Turnovers Hamper Wolverines in Season-Opening Defeat
The University of Michigan football team opened up the 2015 season by playing its first-ever game in the state of Utah in front of a record crowd Thursday night (Sept. 3) but came up short, 24-17, against the host Utes (RV AP, RV USA Coaches) inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Senior wide receiver Amara Darbohhad the game's final score, when graduate student quarterback Jake Rudockconnected with him on a 10-yard pass with 0:54 remaining to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive. When the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds with no Wolverine timeouts remaining, U-M's comeback hopes came to a halt.
After a low-scoring first half that saw Utah take a 10-3 lead, the Utes also struck first to start the second half, opening up to a 17-3 margin after a 14-yard touchdown scamper from quarterback Travis Wilson, who tucked the ball and ran up the middle on a zone-read play to find the end zone with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Junior tight end Jake Buttprovided Michigan's first touchdown of the season by hauling in a 19-yard toss from Rudock -- his first touchdown pass in Maize and Blue.
The TD strike came with just 0:46 remaining in the third quarter, putting U-M down just one touchdown heading into the final frame (17-10, Utah). That catch also brought Butt over the 500-yard mark for his career.
However, the comeback attempt was put on hold after a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown, courtesy of Utah defensive back Justin Thomas.
At the start of the contest, the Utes opened the scoring, capping a 55-yard drive with Andy Phillips' 30-yard field goal at 15:00 in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession -- the first for the Maize and Blue -- Rudock drove the Wolverines' into Utah territory, but the drive was cut short on an interception from Cory Butler-Byrd inside the Utah 20-yard line.
The Wolverines got on the board courtesy of a 29-yarder off the foot of senior Kenny Allen at 14:13 in the second quarter, which tied the game and represented the only U-M points of the half. The Utes strung together a 10-play, 63-yard drive punctuated with a rushing touchdown from Devontae Booker. That put the home team up by a touchdown (10-3), and the score did not change again before the half.
To open the second half, Rudock marched the Wolverines down the field on an 11-play, 49-yard drive, but the Maize and Blue could not find the end zone. At first glance, Darboh picked up a first down inside the Utah 20, but official review showed that the ball hit the ground, and U-M had to settle for a field-goal try. On his second attempt of the evening, Allen was unable to convert on the 44-yarder.
Rudock stayed on his feet all night, as the U-M offensive line did not surrender a single sack during the contest. The Maize and Blue defense picked Wilson off at the close of the first half, with senior Jeremy Clarkcoming down with the ball in the end zone. Senior defensive linemen Mario Ojemudiaand Matthew Godinalso combined on a sack, while the unit tallied nine tackles-for-loss overall, adding a pair of pass breakups.
U-M will play a Pac-12 opponent for the second straight week next Saturday (Sept. 12), hosting Oregon State for its home opener inside Michigan Stadium. The game will be televised on ABC.