No. 8 Michigan hopes QB Speight shines against Cincinnati
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Wilton Speight had a shaky start.
And, Jim Harbaugh made him sit.
Michigan’s quarterback was benched briefly in the second quarter of last week’s season-opening win.
John O’Korn went into the game before the backup went back to the sideline. Speight made the most of his second chance to play in a 33-17 win over then-No. 17 Florida 33-17. He earned another start for the No. 8 Wolverines (1-0) against Cincinnati (1-0) Saturday in their home opener.
”If you can’t handle that type of situation when something goes bad, it’s the wrong position to be playing,” Harbaugh said. ”I thought he did very well. Sometimes that breaks a guy. Sometimes they bounce back from it the next game. If he had had shown an unwillingness to take a risk, that would be the sign that he can’t handle it very well. He kept firing.”
Speight moved Michigan down the field well enough in the second half that it scored 20 points to pull away from the Gators. He threw two interceptions in the first half that were returned for scores, allowing Florida to lead 17-13 at halftime and giving Harbaugh something to work on in practice.
The coach lamented that Speight and his teammates didn’t turn into defensive-minded players when the Gators were returning the interceptions.
”We were atrocious,” Harbaugh said. ”Just standing there watching and that starts with me and it starts with the coaches. But it will get addressed.”
Here are some things to watch when Michigan meets the Bearcats for the first time:
IT’S NOT ABOUT ME: Even though Cincinnati has never played the Wolverines in football, its coach has faced them many times. First-year boss Luke Fickell played nose guard for Ohio State from 1992-96. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes in 1999 and returned as an assistant there in 2002. When Jim Tressel resigned in 2011, Fickell was the program’s interim coach before staying with the school as an assistant from 2012 until last season.
”This is about our team, about our program, not about me,” Fickell said. ”Not about the history I’ve had where I’ve been and the history I’ve had with the University of Michigan. … The reality is I’m probably not going to make a whole lot of plays on Saturday afternoon.”
Michigan has lost 12 of 13 games to Ohio State with the only win during that stretch coming with Fickell as Tressel’s temporary replacement.
SWARMING DEFENSE: Michigan used its speed on defense to close gaps quickly when the Gators had the ball, making up for perhaps a lack of experience with 10 first-time starters.
”It was the best since I’ve been here coaching that I’ve seen our defense run to the football,” Harbaugh said. ”When holes opened up, they got closed. And to get to three fumbles? We had six last year. We were diving on their mistakes.”
LESSON LEARNED: Cincinnati opened with a 12-point victory over Austin Peay, but the Bearcats were not happy with their preparation or productions. They were outgained 313-248 and had just 15 first downs. Cincinnati’s defense, though, took advantage of two turnovers to earn the victory.
”Maybe I didn’t prepare myself and expect as much adversity,” Fickell said. ”I think that’s bad. It hit us in the face. When we needed it, the offense did a good job and the defense stepped up.”
PUT ME IN, COACH: Michigan may have trouble keeping all of its running backs happy. Even though backup Ty Isaac run for 114 yards, he had just 11 carries against Florida. Chris Evans, the starter, had twice as many rushing attempts and ran for 78 yards. Karan Higdon rushed for 29 yards on seven carries.
”We’re always pushing each other, so the competition isn’t going to stop,” Isaac said.
JUST FOR KICKS: The closer-than-expected game may have led to Cincinnati kicker Andrew Gantz missing an extra point and a field goal.
”Hopefully, he got those jitters out of him,” Fickell said.
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