Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Wolverine's Future Looks Bright

Today's 42-20 win over Northwestern was very reassuring. The outcome of this game was never really in much question, but today we finally saw Michigan's top young offensive players put together impressive games on the same day.

Throughout this season, I have often lamented the early season loss to Notre Dame, because an undefeated season looked so attainable in hindsight. By mid-season, we had witnessed the emergence of freshman running back Michael Hart and quarterback Chad Henne, who have admirably replaced the roles of graduating seniors Chris Perry and John Navarre. I had often looked back at the early season loss as missed opportunity, because this was the only season the Michigan offense would benefit from the explosive combination of Braylon Edwards and Michael Hart.

My concerns were answered with today's performance. For me, today was all about the return Steve Breaston. This guy is a truly amazing athlete, and was my favorite player to watch last season. He has been hampered all season long with a broken hand, and has never really looked comfortable on the field - until today, that is. Every time Breaston was given the ball, he was able to juke his way to an extra 4-5 yards after it looked like he had no where to go. The highlight of the game for me was seeing Breaston run a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown. Overall, Breaston returned 4 punts for 102 yards (25.5 ypr) and a touchdown, 3 kickoff returns for 78 yards (26 ypr), caught 4 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, and carried the ball twice for 26 yards. Overall, Breaston put together 243 yards of total offense.

Michael Hart was once again named the player of the game. In today's game, hart carried the ball 23 times for 159 yards, and three touchdowns. In the past 5 games, Hart has managed to rush the ball 983 yards (197 ypg) and 6 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Chad Henne has been quietly putting together a very fine season as a freshman quarterback. This guy has poise under pressure, helping Michigan come from behind in the fourth quarter in big fashion three separate times (vs. Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan State). Overall, Henne now has thrown for 19 touchdowns, along with 10 interceptions.

Also putting together a fine season is Jason Avant. Avant is a very capable receiver, and always seem to be there to make the big plays when the game is on the line. Avant has scored touchdowns in each of the last two games, including that huge touchdown reception in the 2nd overtime vs. Michigan State to keep the game alive.

No discussion of Michigan's offense would be complete without talking about Braylon Edwards. Edwards is probably the most talented receiver in the country, and every time Henne throws a long bomb towards the end zone I end up jumping to my feet in expectation as I look for Edwards to jump up and make another leaping touchdown reception. Edwards was almost single-handedly responsible for the huge comeback win vs. Michigan State last week, in which he score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime. Edwards is among the NCAA national leaders in receiving yardage this season, and has 9 touchdowns.

Today was senior's day in Ann Arbor -- the last home game for fifteen seniors. Along with Braylon Edwards, this was the last home game for Marlin Jackson, Marcus Curry, Kevin Dudley, David Bass, Tim Massaquoi, David Underwood, Adam Finley, Tim Bracken, and Adam Finley.

There will be a lot of holes to fill at the beginning of next season, but today's re-emergence of Steve Breaston as an offensive threat gives me reason to believe that next season's team may have what it takes to challenge for the national title.