Work to do for Michigan at quarterback, Utah feeling better
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Michigan brought back its former star quarterback Jim Harbaugh to resurrect the program and hopefully improve the position he used to play. The nation found out there's work to be done in Ann Arbor after the Wolverines lost 24-17 to Utah on Thursday night.
On the opposite sideline, Utah hoped its four-year starting quarterback would take the next step and show some consistency. The Utes called it a night feeling much better and more confident in Travis Wilson.
Harbaugh kept his plans for a starter secret throughout the offseason and it was Iowa transfer Jake Rudock who stepped under center for the season opener. Rudock was known at Iowa as a game manager - someone who isn't lighting the world on fire, but also not turning the ball over. He threw three picks against Utah after throwing five in 12 games last year.
Rudock finished 27 for 43 with 279 yards and two touchdowns. The first touchdown was a dangerous throw to tight end Jake Butt in triple-coverage.
''Bad plays are going to happen ... you want to limit them as much as you can,'' Rudock said ''But (Harbaugh) was supportive and telling me to keep going and keep working hard.''
Wilson didn't take many risks, but he made several plays that were key to the win. He came out running the ball with Michigan focused on running back Devontae Booker. Wilson was smart and took open check-downs and got the ball into the hands of his playmakers. He completed 72.7 percent of his passes and ran for 61 yards and a touchdown. The goal this season is to complete 65 percent of his passes.
''Travis was very good, efficient,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''He threw for a couple hundred yards and was more than a game manager. He did his thing and responded nicely.''
Other things we learned from Utah's win over Michigan:
ROUGH RUNNING: The Michigan running backs opened the season in underwhelming fashion. The Utes are strong up front, but the Wolverines were held to 76 yards and 2.6 yards per rush. Ty Isaac and Derrick Green combined for six rushes for 14 yards. Michigan needs more from the position.
DBs HUNTING: The Utah defense aims to get four turnovers and return one for a score every practice. The thought is, if that carries over to games, the Utes should win plenty. The defense came up with three turnovers and returned on for a score versus Michigan. The Utes didn't get a sack after leading the nation with 55 in 2014, but they were opportunistic with the ball in the air.
RAY OF HOPE: The Michigan offense seemed to have more playmakers catching the ball than last season. Jake Butt caught eight balls for 93 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Amara Darboh had eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Jehu Chesson was wide open for two deep passes, but was overthrown. Darboh and Chesson were expected to break out in 2014.
HELP OUTSIDE: Booker and inside receivers Britain Covey and Bubba Harris combined for 15 receptions for 135 yards. Top receiver Kenneth Scott was held to two catches for 15 yards. Receiver has been a questions mark for Utah and Thursday was a slow start for the guys on the outside.