Michigan 20, Northwestern 17

Michigan 20, Northwestern 17


September 30, 2018

Karan Higdon (image via Valdosta Daily Times)

Never apologize for a victory. There are going to be a lot of complaints about Michigan in regard to this game, but it goes in the books as a win and moves the Wolverines to 4-1 on the year. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when this would have been a loss because the offense never would have been able to mount enough momentum to score 20 points in a comeback attempt. In the post-2011 Brady Hoke years, the defense would have played well, the offense would have put up 10-13 points, and then the D would have cracked from having to be on the field forever.

Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.

Nico Collins isn’t a #1 WR. Or if he is, Michigan is in trouble. Camp rumors were that Collins looked like the best receiver on the team, which I had a hard time believing based on what we had seen from Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones. When Collins came out of high school, he looked like a big guy with decent speed who didn’t have a ton of polish. And at least in this game, that’s exactly what he looked like. He’s had some big plays in the passing game earlier this year, but they were deep throws down the middle of the field. When the game of football requires more nuance, he’s not ready. Some examples:

  • In the first half, Michigan threw him a now screen (more on that later) on 3rd-and-2. The 6’4″, 218 lb. Collins stood there . . . and waited for two guys to think he was invisible . . . then made a feeble attempt to get the first down and failed.
  • With time running down in the first half, Collins caught the ball on the left sideline and could have easily run out of bounds to save some clock. He seemed to make an attempt to stay on the field of play, got tackled inbounds, and saw precious time tick away.
  • In the second half, he made a leaping attempt to catch a pass and got possession of it, but instead of displaying field awareness and dragging a toe on the green grass, he stomped both of his feet on the sideline, making it an incompletion.
  • Later he caught a pass with some room to run over the middle, tried to shimmy and shake laterally, and got dragged down a few yards shy of the first down.

Black is out with a broken foot, and Peoples-Jones missed some time in the first half with a hip flexor issue, so I understand that Michigan was looking to Collins more out of necessity. But with the spotlight shining on him, he made a lot of mental mistakes. He needs to understand that he’s 6’4″ and 218 lbs., so he can’t be a finesse player. Hopefully he will learn from his mistakes in this game, because obviously Michigan is going to need him to perform well if they want to be successful down the stretch.

No more now screens to Nico Collins. This isn’t really Collins’s fault – it’s a scheme issue, which falls on the coaches. But several times this year, Michigan has run now screens to Collins out of a trips formation when Collins is the #1 receiver closest to the sideline. (Definition of a now screen: QB immediately takes the snap and throws to a WR with the same-side WRs immediately blocking the most dangerous defenders.) Collins is probably literally the worst realistic option for that play, because he hasn’t shown the elusiveness to make people miss or the willingness to run over/stiff-arm smaller defenders. Players I would rather see catch the ball in that situation: Peoples-Jones, Grant Perry, Ronnie Bell, Jake McCurry, Zach Gentry. At least those guys have some suddenness to them or, in Gentry’s case, the size and willingness to use said size.

Michigan sucks at running the ball. Northwestern is decent on defense, but they’re not that good. Michigan couldn’t do anything on the ground in their basic running game. There was a succession of sets of downs in the second half that basically went like this:

  • 1st-and-10: Higdon 1-yard run
  • 2nd-and-9: Higdon 3-yard run
  • 3rd-and-6: Shea Patterson scramble or short throw for a first down
  • Repeat

Michigan won’t run the ball to the right, despite having 350 lb. right guard Michael Onwenu and 330 lb. Juwann Bushell-Beatty over there. Instead, they run counters and powers to the left, which require the 350 lb. Onwenu to pull from the backside and make blocks effectively on the playside. Higdon ended up with 115 yards, but it took him 30 carries to get there.

Thank goodness for Shea Patterson. Patterson was 15/24 for 196 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, and he ran 7 times for 31 yards. It wasn’t a stellar afternoon and he didn’t produce any scores, but he kept drives alive and threw some [dangerous] passes with pinpoint accuracy. He had a couple bad throws (a fade route to Grant Perry, a dig route to Collins), but there was also a terrible drop by a wide-open Sean McKeon and a really lazy route by Nick Eubanks that should have been completions. Even though Collins ended up leading the team with 6 catches for 73 yards, the only target that really seemed to help out Patterson was tight end Zach Gentry.

Defensive guys continue to emerge. This game saw a couple young backups show off their pass rushing chops. Sophomore defensive end Kwity Paye has been playing inside at defensive tackle on a lot of pass rushing downs, and he made 2 sacks. Meanwhile, junior linebacker Joshua Uche – who has been deemed by some teammates as the team’s best pass rusher – also made 2 sacks, including the game-sealing takedown on the final play. This is great news for Michigan, who need some backups to let the starters rest, and they need to get ready to start next year when both Winovich and likely Rashan Gary are gone.

The penalties are ridiculous. Michigan deserved all the penalties they got – and maybe more – except for the preposterous holding call on Karan Higdon. Shea Patterson had a 30-yard run called back on a zone read after he faked to Higdon, which sounds absurd. Not absurd enough yet? On the replay, it was clear that Higdon was thrown to the ground by a linebacker after the fake. Regardless, Michigan got called for 10 penalties for 90 yards. It’s not as bad as their previous season-high of 13 for 137, but it’s still too much.

79 comments

  1. Comments: 36
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nick.
    Sep 30, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Thunder, what is your assessment of why this team struggles on the road? Is it lack of preparation? Is it lack of mental toughness? Is it that every team we see adds wrinkles just for us? Is it an unwillingness to adapt early to what the opponent gives us? There is clearly something going on and it isn’t healthy to spot teams 2 or 3 scores.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2628
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 30, 2018 at 11:13 AM

      I don’t think it’s a lack of preparation. I’m sure it’s a combination of things. Obviously, traveling can put some wear and tear on you and mess with your routines. I do think teams tend to get extra hyped/prepared for their biggest opponents (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, etc.), so Northwestern isn’t going to come out as hard for Rutgers as they will for Michigan, and that’s amped up a bit by the fact you’re in someone else’s stadium.

      I think there are two things about Michigan in general that are issues: 1) Michigan tries to impose its will on teams early and depends on making adjustments, rather than coming out aggressively and b) Michigan’s offense does not have confidence in itself. I think the offensive line still isn’t sure whether they can move people or not, and they’re right to have those questions.

      • Comments: 845
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 30, 2018 at 11:31 AM

        How about being well prepared right off the bat, instead of always depending on “adjustments”?

      • Comments: 569
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Oct 01, 2018 at 1:52 AM

        Good observations. I still think there is a disconnect between what Harbaugh wants to do and what he can do with this team. I think he finally gave in toward the end and let Patterson take over and called some spread plays.

  2. Comments: 845
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:27 AM

    Yes, the chorus of “What are you complaining about…we won!!” is inevitable. But this was a game we were supposed to win, and should have won much more easily. The fact that a Brady Hoke-coached team would have lost it doesn’t really matter, since we won’t be playing that team this year.

    We’re 5 games in and we show no signs of being able to hang with the touch teams on our schedule. We’ll frankly be doing well to match last year’s 8-4, which is seriously disappointing. And it’s pretty much all on the coaches. This team was poorly prepared and undisciplined, again. The play calling remains awful, and there is frankly no fixing that. For those few fans who are going to be monumentally happy just watching this team “grow”, knock yourself out, but I’m not convinced you’re even going to see that.

    • Comments: 243
      Joined: 12/24/2016
      INTJohn
      Sep 30, 2018 at 10:03 AM

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyh-JpWdGmQ

      I love you man!………intjohn

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3893
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 30, 2018 at 11:42 AM

      We were able to hang with Notre Dame. We even outgained them.

      That’s some sign we can hang with Wisc and MSU at least and probably PSU and OSU too.

      Are you saying you expect to get blown out by these teams? If not you will be pleasantly surprised, right WCB?

      • Comments: 845
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 30, 2018 at 12:12 PM

        Well, if you consider “hang with” to mean “play terribly for a while due to lack of preparation and discipline and then make enough adjustments to make the score look better when we lose”, then I suppose yes, we can “hang with” some of those teams.

        And yes, if we lose by less than 2 TDs to OSU or Penn State, I will be surprised. They are both playing at a level significantly above us. I see no “sign” that we can match their talent or their coaching.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 12:48 PM

          Something tells me the “pleasantly” part of the equation won’t be apparent.

          They outgained ND and had the ball last with a chance to win the game. Not a case of saving face.

          I agree (so do we all I think) that we’d like to see Michigan come out stronger to start games. I don’t think it’s a lack of preparation. They did exactly what you asked – came out firing on offense with Patterson over the conventional run game. Come out firing on defense with pass-rushing threats at DT. They clearly had a gameplan in mind. Similar to the ideas you suggested even!

          Those didn’t work but the coaches deserve credit for adjusting. It’s not something to criticize them for.

          • Comments: 845
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Sep 30, 2018 at 2:17 PM

            The fact remains that Northwestern came onto the field prepared for what we were going to do, and we did not come on to the field prepared for what they were going to do. We have better on-paper talent than they do at pretty much every position on the field, so what explanation is there for that except sub-par coaching on our part?

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3893
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Oct 01, 2018 at 2:49 PM

              I know they were prepared to win because they did.

              • Comments: 845
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Oct 01, 2018 at 2:57 PM

                Which has nothing to do with what I said.

      • Comments: 41
        Joined: 9/18/2016
        Chowman
        Sep 30, 2018 at 3:11 PM

        and who’s ND? they’re not any good. they’ve benched the QB the lit us up. They beat a bad Stanford team that should of lost the week before if Cristobal doesn’t crap his pants and give them the game. Hey Mario, its called the victory formation for a reason. ND is very average, just like a lot of college football including Michigan!

        • Thunder
          Comments: 2628
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Sep 30, 2018 at 7:01 PM

          They’re not any good? They were the #7 team going into yesterday and beat the #8 team (or vice versa – I can’t remember). There are 130 teams in the FBS, and they’re in the top seven. But sure, “they’re not any good” and Stanford is “bad.” What teams in the FBS are “good” or “not bad?” The top four? The other 126 teams are bad?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 7:10 PM

          For “Everybody sucks except Alabama” people there are 3 tiers.

          1. Alabama – good
          2. Top 10 teams who can plausibly hang with Alabama – average
          3. Everybody else – terrible

          It is interesting to watch some fans look for any reason to be upset.

          • Comments: 845
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Sep 30, 2018 at 8:39 PM

            Almost as interesting as watching the fans who think that any legitimate criticism of the team is being “upset”, or “hating”. Almost as interesting as watching fans try to rationalize being happy with 9-3ish finishes every year that Harbaugh is here, and pretending that that’s all they ever hoped for or expected from him.

            • MGoStrength
              Comments: 12
              Joined: 12/17/2015
              MGoStrength
              Sep 30, 2018 at 9:23 PM

              I think we all hoped for more, but it’s also still a heck of a lot better than RR or Hoke. On the one hand, we are still trying to fix the o-line issues from the previous regimes. One the other hand, there is still plenty of criticism to be had from the offensive standpoint beyond the o-line. Only time will tell, but a lack of consistency and continually rebuilding can’t be the answer either, can it?

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3893
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 30, 2018 at 10:43 PM

              Michigan isn’t going to be Alabama. With ANY coach. You can be mad about that every week if you want.

              • Comments: 845
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Oct 01, 2018 at 8:10 AM

                Alabama wasn’t current day Alabama for a long time, until they were. Ohio State wasn’t current day Ohio State for a long time until they were.

                In any case, we don’t have to BE Alabama to compete at a championship level. So far under Harbaugh, we’re not even close. Not even close to winning our own division, let alone making the playoff.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 3893
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Oct 01, 2018 at 2:49 PM

                  They were already close – in 2016.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3893
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 30, 2018 at 11:06 PM

            S&P rating by season (2015-18) under Harbaugh:
            5, 3, 27, 7

            I’m aware of the record against OSU and MSU and the bowl games the last 2 years leaving fans all offseason to grumble. But the bottomline is that the the quality of play on the field has been very high.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3893
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 30, 2018 at 11:11 PM

              his best/final year at Stanford was 6

              So if “Stanford” was the objective…not far off.

              If Fielding Yost-era Michigan is the objective…lol.

            • Comments: 845
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              WindyCityBlue
              Oct 01, 2018 at 8:14 AM

              Nobody looks at esoteric statistics to judge teams and coaches. They look at wins and losses. They look at who you beat and what you won. Harbaugh has yet to post a signature win here. He has yet to finish better than third in his division. Rolling up fancy stats against cupcakes means very little if his teams keep collapsing when it really counts.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3893
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Oct 01, 2018 at 2:48 PM

                I do!

                I don’t know what “signature win” means but Michigan has beaten Penn State, Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan State.

                Yes Harbaugh needs to slay the OSU dragon at some point. He’s been close. People who feel entitled to demand it RIGHT NOW are insufferable.

                • Comments: 845
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  WindyCityBlue
                  Oct 01, 2018 at 3:02 PM

                  Here’s a hint…beating 3-9 Michigan State was not a signature win.

                  And if this were Harbaugh’s first season, people demanding he beat Ohio State “right now” would be unreasonable. But it’s not. No Michigan coach in history has lost his first four games to Ohio State.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 3893
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Oct 01, 2018 at 4:12 PM

                  You ignored the other 3. I assume there are arbitrary reasons why those don’t count as ‘signature’ either?

    • UM_1973
      Comments: 48
      Joined: 10/14/2015
      UM_1973
      Sep 30, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      I think it is fair to say the majority of Michigan fans are not happy with the state of Michigan football. 4 years of Harbaugh has not really brought on any tangible success. Having said that, it also has not been failures like the RR/Hoke years. I think it is not easy to win at Michigan (Recruitment/Grades/Location etc). Short of being able to lure Meyer/Saban/Carroll, who else is available out there that would be an outright improvement over Harbaugh? I likened Harbaugh letting go of Drevno/Frey to John Beilein’s replacing his assistants after the 2010 season. The offense is still sub-par but I see the offense improving over last year (albeit from a very low base). With this year’s offense, I think we wd have beaten Ohio State last year. While I agree that 8-4 is a very realistic and disappointing outcome, let’s hold our judgement until the time comes.

      • Comments: 243
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        INTJohn
        Sep 30, 2018 at 2:39 PM

        Perhaps most Michigan fans ARe unhappy. I don’t know and I’ve never seen a recent pole but I don’t know what their expectations would be IF most are ‘unhappy’.

        Everyone clamours for a return to the years of Bo but I remember ‘back in the day’ when Bo brought undefeated Teams for 6 straight seasons – REpeat 6 STRAIGHT SEASONS! – into their last game of the season and failed to get a victory……. Is this what would make Michigan fans ‘happy’?

        Harbaugh is running a top notch program, recruiting well with quality young men. As long as He’s fielding a competitive Team with quality players who give thier best I think thats all anyone can ask or expect.

        Michigan is not in the center of any kind of major recruitment base anymore as are the current elite programs – populational talent pools East of the Mississippi River have shifted to the SE. Hell even the ‘traditional football powers’ within both the States of Florida & Texas are having difficulty maintaining a recruitment level required for elite sustainment; i.e. Texas, TA&M, FSU, Fla & Miami because of the emergence of programs like UCF, USF, Etc, not to mention many other programs that seek recruits from those geographic areas……

        Michigan needs an extraordinary head coach who can recruit talent Nationaly, similar to Notre Dame, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head who is best adept at this as Jim Harbaugh for this program.

        Michigan’s fan base needs to Learn to enjoy what it has & criticize it if they want in a positive fashion but if all they care to do is spew forth mindless vitriol and become ‘Braylons’ – well those peeps can fuck off.

        As I See It………….INTjohn

        • MGoStrength
          Comments: 12
          Joined: 12/17/2015
          MGoStrength
          Sep 30, 2018 at 9:37 PM

          I don’t think recruiting is the problem. JH has recruited at a pretty high level. He’s averaging a top 10 class each of his 3 full recruiting classes and projecting also to do so this year. So far our final rankings in the polls is still lagging behind our recruiting. In ’15 we finished 12th, ’16 we finished 10th, ’17 we were unranked, and right now we’re 15th. It seems logical that recruiting would have a lag before producing wins as it may take a few years for recruits to develop. JH probably won in ’15 & ’16 with Hoke’s recruits. But, our offense also seemed better then. I wonder how much we miss Fisch and/or Wheatley and how much of a liability Jay Harbaugh and/or Pep are? Anyways, I don’t see a problem with either our recruiting or our final rankings so far. In fact they seem quite predictable. For the most part other than a few unfortunate games we beat who you’d expect us to beat and lose to who you’d expect us to lose to. The only problem is we haven’t had too many signature wins. Our only big wins were Florida in the Bowl game in ’15, PSU in ’16 and Wiscy in ’16. That was our last good win and that was a while ago. We need a win against a ranked team this year to feel OK about things, even if we lose 4 games. We have to find a way to win a game or two against Wiscy, PSU, MSU, & OSU. If we drop all 4 and win out folks will be disappointed even if that’s exactly what was expected.

        • UM_1973
          Comments: 48
          Joined: 10/14/2015
          UM_1973
          Oct 02, 2018 at 1:48 AM

          INTjohn: So far, Harbaugh is doing all the right things, saying all the right things. No scandals, recruiting young men we all proudly want to see succeed. However at the end of the day, we still need to see tangible success (by that, I mean Big Ten Titles, Wins against our Rivals).

          That is why I made the comparison to John Beilein. I think we know Michigan basketball will probably not be deemed as elite as the blueblood program like Kentucky/Duke/Kansas. But we are very proud of our men’s basketball team. This is because John Beilein does things the right way but more importantly, he wins rivalry games, he wins Big Ten titles, he makes the Championship Finals. We do not need the 5-star recruits as long as we win.

          I remain supportive of Jim Harbaugh but it is also very fair to expect a Big Ten Title every few years. Should a Michigan fan be contented with 8-4 results and finishing 2nd or 3rd every year? I am sure Jim Harbaugh himself will be the first to say he is unsatisfied with how things have unfolded the past 2 years.

          • Comments: 243
            Joined: 12/24/2016
            INTJohn
            Oct 02, 2018 at 7:36 AM

            I wasn’t arguing with you but rather giving an elaboration on your first post. However, I don’t think ‘it’s fair’ that Michigan have a B10 title every few years. A title isn’t an annual grab bag participation award so every1 can feel equal & satisfied that is divied out on a quota…….

            Michigan fan need to get rid of their sense of entitlement – literally.

            I’ve been as critical of Harbaugh coaching as anyone. In fact, frankly, I don’t think he is a ‘great coach’ – a good coach, yes; great? No.

            But he is as good a recruiter as Michigan’s program is ever going to find and if some1 can’t recruit Michigan football will really nosedive because those talented recruits from the SE & Texas will NOT come North to Michigan without a personality like Harbaugh.
            This isn’t the segregated South anymore when it comes to football. Players like Bubba Smith and many others no longer need to come North to play like in the 60’s and 70’s. They stay home now to be closer to thier families, etc. there is no need for them to find an excellent football school with good academics. Have you heard of Grambling lately? Or any of the Black footbal schools that had great teams & players ‘back in the day’?
            Hell no! Cause those talented players are now going to Alabama, Georgia, SEC & ACC etc. But they are not coming North to any degree whatsoever.

            Thats why I think its necessary for Michigan to get out of the B10 while its still a ‘destination’ school and join the ACC. Harbaugh won’t be at Michigan for ever and whoever follows will need the SE to recruit as the Detroit Metro area is simply a dying locale. Joining the ACC will enable a recruitment vantage for Michigan in the future.
            In the meantime yes, learn to enjoy 9-3 seasons with an occasional East Div or B10 title. Isn’t 9-3 a .750 winning percentage? And what is Michigan’s all time leading winning %? Oh yeah! Less than .750.
            As I See It……………INTJohn

            • Comments: 243
              Joined: 12/24/2016
              INTJohn
              Oct 02, 2018 at 8:56 AM

              EDIT:
              “there is no need for them to find an excellent football school with good academics” [up North].

              Apology…….intjohn

            • Comments: 980
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Oct 02, 2018 at 9:06 AM

              “every 4yrs” would make sense, if it hadn’t been 14 since our last b1g title

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3893
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Oct 03, 2018 at 12:35 AM

            This is an ongoing pet peeve of mine.

            In the last three decades Michigan has been to 5 national title games in in basketball and 0 in football, yet Michigan fans are perfectly comfortable saying we can’t possibly be elite in basketball and hold the football program to completely unrealistic standards.

            • Comments: 980
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Oct 03, 2018 at 1:15 AM

              I’m neither of those Lank
              I think we should be in the running for the conference title every year. I don’t expect to win every year, not with ohio running full speed. I do think we should be closer than 2016, and then… 2006 as the closest we’ve gotten in a decade in a half? I didn’t predict to win the conference, but I did think we’d be a game behind. Now I’m thinking 3rd in the East at best

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3893
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Oct 03, 2018 at 4:57 PM

                how do you get closer than 2016? That was an inch (or a negative inch).

                My point wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular. Just griping about the indisputable supremacy of football amongst fans even though basketball gets better results.

                On the plus side there’s less “hot seat” takes in basketball for the greatest coach in college basketball (and in program history). But even he caught flack 2 years ago for recruiting rankings and injuries. Just shows that the battle against the fire-da-coach takes is sisyphean.

                • Comments: 980
                  Joined: 1/19/2016
                  je93
                  Oct 03, 2018 at 9:56 PM

                  1) I must have not been clear. I don’t mean “closer than 2016,” I meant closer than twice in the last 14yrs
                  2) I’ve never been in the fire anyone crowd. I want Harbaugh to succeed, and believe he can. I do have my gripes, only because I’m a fanatic on a message board!

    • Comments: 41
      Joined: 9/18/2016
      Chowman
      Sep 30, 2018 at 3:00 PM

      Dude you’re singing to choir. Tired of being called a fair weather fan cause I won’t embrace mediocrity.

    • Comments: 569
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Oct 01, 2018 at 1:53 AM

      @WCB

      Couldn’t agree more with your comments.

  3. Comments: 41
    Joined: 9/18/2016
    Chowman
    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    Spot on Thunder. As I sat in my recliner sipping a beer or 3, I was thinking the same things about Collins and the run game. Also why this team, even the D comes out so flat on the road. You can get away with 17 pt. holes against the N’westerns of the world, but against better teams a route could be on!

  4. Comments: 92
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    AC1997
    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:51 AM

    Michigan has some issues on offense still and that was obvious. But this was still a road game against a desperate team with a solid D coming off a bye. As I feared, NW had a good script that worked early until Don Brown figured things out.

    Your points about Collins are all valid…but it felt like piling on considering he should be a RS-FR after just one catch last year and should be a backup to Black. I would rather talk about how the WR /TE in general had a shaky game. The OL held up well and often Shea had no targets. Perry never gets thrown to, Gentry ran a lazy route on a couple of occasions, etc.

    The penalties we’re also bad and frustrating, but some of those (block on punt returns, Runyan hold, etc) were marginal and rarely called. Meanwhile another week goes by with our great DL somehow never generating a hold by their OL.

    • Comments: 845
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 30, 2018 at 9:22 AM

      The meme of “Waahhhhh! It’s not fair! Everyone brings their best game against us!” is another that needs to be taken out and shot. They really don’t. They save that for Ohio State and Penn State now. And there is nothing that prevents us from coming into a game better prepared for the opponent than they are for us, except substandard coaching. You can jerk off all you want about the “adjustments” we made after giving up 17 easy points, but wouldn’t it be nice to come out and be kicking a better team’s ass right from the get-go, and force THEM to make adjustments? Just ask Pat Fitzgerald how it’s done.

      • Comments: 18
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        LeeR
        Sep 30, 2018 at 11:01 AM

        “You can jerk off all you want…”
        I think you’re at the wrong site.

        While you’re having people ask Fitz about how to coach football, you could ask him if having a bye week affects a team’s ability to come out of the gate.

        • Comments: 845
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Sep 30, 2018 at 11:28 AM

          Why not ask Harbaugh if having a bye week before State last year helped Michigan come out of the gate?

        • Comments: 41
          Joined: 9/18/2016
          Chowman
          Sep 30, 2018 at 3:06 PM

          Stop. No excuse for Harbaugh’s teams coming out flat on the road. We weren’t playing a good team, stop being a champion of mediocrity. Right now Michigan’s an average team in a bad conference. If that hurts your feelings, that’s your problem!

      • Comments: 41
        Joined: 9/18/2016
        Chowman
        Sep 30, 2018 at 3:02 PM

        Exactly!

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2628
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 30, 2018 at 11:19 AM

      I mentioned the Collins caveat, but ultimately, he’s got to step it up. He was the #1 target in this game, and Michigan keeps going to him.

      I thought the Runyan hold was obvious, not marginal or rarely called. Regardless, Michigan is #119 in penalty yardage and #121 in penalties. It’s too many, no matter how you slice it. Other teams have “bad penalties” called against them, too. We’re not special in that regard.

      • Comments: 3
        Joined: 11/22/2016
        UMinDC
        Sep 30, 2018 at 12:36 PM

        Thunder,

        What’s your feeling in how DPJ has been used? Another underwhelming performance ( 2 for 14 yards) from a guy who was one of the most athletic guys in the country. Is this a case of coaches mis-using him or does he just not understand the nuances of the position?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 12:51 PM

          They threw to DPJ on 3 of the first 6 plays of the game. So they’re trying. After those early script plays, it’s on him to get open.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 2628
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Sep 30, 2018 at 7:17 PM

          I’ve been saying this ever since DPJ was recruited, and I took some flak for “only” giving him a grade in the 80s. Jim Harbaugh has never had an elite receiver, either in college or the NFL. His most productive WR was Anquan Boldin with the 49ers, who was a possession guy. IMO, he’s never going to be an elite receiver in college, because Michigan won’t develop him enough or target him enough to make him relevant in the national discussion for All-America status, etc. People got excited about his 3-touchdown performance against SMU a few weeks ago, but that was an aberration.

          I don’t think Peoples-Jones is a polished receiver yet, but it doesn’t matter. This offense is designed to run the ball, throw to tight ends, throw to fullbacks, etc. They’ll hit receivers occasionally off of play action, which is what they’ve done with Collins (and DPJ) on occasion. But this is about par for the course for an outside receiver at Michigan. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a guy who gets targeted 10 or 12 times a game.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3893
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 30, 2018 at 10:46 PM

            That flack wasn’t about DPJ’s ability but the notion that it’s categorically impossible for UM to have an elite receiver.

          • Comments: 845
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Oct 01, 2018 at 6:14 AM

            Except it isn’t. Our tight ends have only caught 22 passes in 5 games, and Mason has yet to even be targeted for a catch. Despite all of the blather about H-backs and X-backs and Y-backs and wtf ever, our offense is not in any way “designed” around them. Our offense to this point has no real identity at all.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 2628
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Oct 01, 2018 at 10:08 AM

              Michigan is #3 in TE receptions in the 14-team Big Ten, and Michigan has a higher percentage of passes to TEs than any other team except Iowa. Basically, other than Iowa, Michigan is the most TE-centric offense in the conference.

              • Comments: 845
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Oct 01, 2018 at 3:05 PM

                So? That wasn’t the issue. It was your claim that our offense is focused on throwing to TEs and fullbacks, not wide receivers.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 3893
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Oct 01, 2018 at 4:11 PM

                  Michigan doesn’t throw much. Michigan doesn’t play many WRs. Michigan is less reliant on WRs than most passing offenses.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3893
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 30, 2018 at 11:53 AM

      The D was good. They got burned on a screen and then a couple scoring drives sustained by PIs. The PIs are just going to be there. The CBs have been coached to PI on almost every down. Can’t call em all. Remember when we complained how MSU did this and we didn’t? I’ll live with the consequences.

      That said, the CBs should be coached to be a little more subtle about it. Something that Stribling and Lewis got really good at. e.g. Waiting till the last minute with the off-hand.

      My only concern was that NW was also having some success running it up the gut. This got cleaned up later in the game. I don’t know if this was on the DTs but it seemed to correlate with the early game DT rotation. MIchigan went aggressive leaning on pass-rushing threats (Dwumfour & Paye) at DT early, not just on passing downs. I thought Kemp and/or Marshall were hurt, but they were out there in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when things got clamped down. Don Brown adjusted.

      • Comments: 845
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 30, 2018 at 12:05 PM

        Metellus and Kinnel are terrible in pass coverage. Fitzgerald knew it and his QB was picking on them over and over.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 12:11 PM

          174 yards on 29 attempts and 6 sacks was it? The only pass over 15 yards was an early screen.

          Michigan will have to work on defending slants, but you’re hyperbole is a bit much.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3893
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 30, 2018 at 12:11 PM

            your

          • Thunder
            Comments: 2628
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Sep 30, 2018 at 12:14 PM

            WCB was complaining heavily about Patterson’s yards per attempt being 5.5 last week, and 174 yards on 29 attempts is 6.0, which is only fractionally better.

            • Comments: 845
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              WindyCityBlue
              Sep 30, 2018 at 2:20 PM

              Patterson did it against a weak defense. Thorsen did it against a much better defense. You’ve made my point.

              • Thunder
                Comments: 2628
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Sep 30, 2018 at 2:37 PM

                Nope. It’s either a bad YPA or it’s not. Patterson did it against a weaker D, but he didn’t need to throw the ball downfield because Michigan ran for almost 300 yards (IIRC) and scored on special teams. Thorson DID need to throw it downfield, and he couldn’t. Patterson’s YPA is #4 in the Big Ten and #39 nationally. He’s ahead of PSU’s Trace McSorley and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, just to name a couple.

                • Comments: 845
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  WindyCityBlue
                  Sep 30, 2018 at 5:58 PM

                  You’re saying that stats can’t be judged by relative quality of opponent, and I suspect even you know that isn’t true. But I’ll bookmark the “It’s either a bad YPA or it’s not” quote for next time you try to argue otherwise.

                  5.5 YPA is very unlikely to be good enough to beat OSU or Penn State. Would you care to dispute that in front of everyone? I doubt it.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 2628
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Sep 30, 2018 at 6:07 PM

                  Bookmark away.

                  5.5 YPA isn’t very likely to be good enough to beat OSU or PSU…but we weren’t playing OSU or PSU. The reason this YPA argument is taking on a life of its own is that you took one game and judged the effectiveness of the overall passing game based off of a 56-10 blowout victory over a Big Ten opponent.

                  Jake Rudock averaged 5.6 YPA against both UNLV and Maryland back in 2015, where we outscored those teams by a combined 56-7. Was that indicative of a terrible passing offense? No. Rudock went on to average 7.8, 6.7, 8.2, and 9.0 YPA against the ranked teams on the schedule.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 12:15 PM

          This is a concern against PSU and OSU. We know those teams have weapons in the slot. Michigan isn’t going to shut those teams out for 3 quarters like they did against Northwestern. We know Metellus and Kinnel aren’t elite talents, but they’re also not glaring weakness.

          This is an excellent defense with two soft spots that can be exploited.

          -The DL rotation is unsettled and unexceptional.
          -The safeties can be beat in coverage.
          -The CBs are susceptible to PI flags.

          • Comments: 980
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Sep 30, 2018 at 7:13 PM

            Throw in lack of turnovers and I’m with you Lank. NW had trouble protecting the ball to open the season, but kept it away from us, forcing us to play nearly flawlessly for 3Qs

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3893
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 30, 2018 at 10:47 PM

              whispers: turnovers are random

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 1:05 PM

          As is typical there’s a kernel of truth within the WCB hyperbole. The safeties weakness in pass coverage is reflected in Hawkins insertion into the passing game. The staff wants a 3rd safety they can rotate in of course, but they especially want Hawkins (supposedly the best pass-covering safety) to emerge.

          Mgoblog and others keep asking why they don’t just play a nickel corner (Thomas or JKP) against these slots but it seems obvious to me that you’re giving up a lot in run defense when you do that. I think Don Brown is OK with giving up some 5-10 yard slants in exchange for the sure tackling and smart play of Metellus and Kinnel. As long as these slants aren’t turning into 40+ yard TDs we can live with it.

          Still, the running ability of Lewerke & McSorely loom as concerns. Michigan is susceptible to things that exploit their aggression: screens, slants, and QB scrambles. These are things that PSU, OSU, and MSU have had a lot of their success with unfortunately.

          JKP and Thomas barely see snaps. If anything they’ll lift Ross, put in Watson and flip Hill inside. That maybe a necessity against the talent that PSU and OSU has coming from the slot.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 30, 2018 at 7:02 PM

          Is it that we have terrible safeties who are poorly coached or is Michigan pass defense so good that we have to grade on a curve? Can’t have it both ways.

  5. Comments: 243
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:06 AM

    I’ve boxed myself into spewing out a “Play of the Game” comment and for this game it was the Last Play of the game as this game was never over till it was over. That sack before Thorson could even throw the Hail Mary was a big relief moment………

    Northwestern had to play a near perfect game to compete with the Wolverines. Thorson didn’t turn the ball over like he did against Akron and everyone is aware that NW has a very good well coached defence; there were no Special Teams miscues/explosives. Being on the road, NW was going to give Michigan their best shot and this ‘test’ for the Wolves will pay dividends in the future.

    Fitzgerald plays football similar to both Wisky & MSU; ball control attrition and this style plays into the hands of Michigan’s philosophy. Close to the vest tight scores with little explosive plays. Keeping the score close. Michigan can beat teams that play this way because they have a great defence and as long as Patterson doesn’t turn the ball over – which he hasn’t!- only 1 TO since Notre Dame and tough special teams Michigan should be able to handle both Wisky & MSU.
    PSU & OSU are both capable of great explosiveness on a variety of levels and can give Michigan more trouble. PSU has joined Michigan in blowing 2 touchdown leads against the Buckeyes, now, in the last 2 years. OSU is still the team to beat and I don’t think Michigan can accomplish that one. Haskins is the best QB Meyer has probably ever had; certainly since Smith at Utah.
    But Wisky, MSU games are very winnable and PSU coming into AA after having their balloon popped by the Buckeyes works to Michigan’s advantage.

    Yeah Michigan could lose all 4 but I think they’re more than capable of going 3-1 in thos games to finish at 10-2. Looking forward to an exciting, interesting, enjoyably entertaining rest of the season.

    Go Blue!………………INTJohn

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 3893
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 30, 2018 at 11:38 AM

    This team is about it’s Defense and Patterson’s ability to make plays.

    There’s decent talent at all the skill positions but nobody is special (yet) and the OL limitations preclude this team from running some of the aggressive downfield passing plays they might like to. So they have to threaten the field horizontally and really strive for a balanced attack that will keep them guessing.

    The regular run game isn’t great – that’s evident on repeated failures on 3rd and short on RB runs. It feels like their only reliable option is the FB. But this isn’t a great passing team either.

    Vs 2018 Northwestern:
    Michigan 8.2 ypa 182 yards 0 TDs
    Duke 8.5 ypa 204 yards 3 TDs
    Akron 9.9 ypa 277 yards 2 TDs

    Purdue threw 3 INTs but still managed 270 yards in the air as well. That’s right, this game was a season best for Northwestern through the air.

    Michigan came out trying to pass-to-run with only 1 RB carry on the first 2 drives. Some have been calling for this. It didn’t work. Patterson was sacked on the only long pass attempt. The offense only got going when they committed to running it up the middle with Higdon. Eventually (in the 4th quarter) Northwestern put the clamps on this (there were I don’t know how many 1st and 10 runs for 1 yard late in the game).

    The offense is just not that good. They want to have an identity but they can’t hang their hat on anything. The tackles being what they are and with Black out you can maybe understand why the passing game isn’t really it. The run game? There’s a few young guys here and, again, the tackles are limited, but I’m with Thunder in not understanding why run right isn’t more successful. It feels like that should be the base of this offense. It isn’t.

    The scoring drives in this game (against a good-not-great defense) were a mix of pounding on the ground and a few mid-range passes to TEs and WRs, plus the occasional horizontal run. That’s how it’s going to have to play out.

    There were some curious playcalls. I don’t know if the coaches approach, which feels grab-baggy, is a result of the lack of identity – and trying to find it. I’m not an X’s and O’s expert but the one thing that stands out to me is that the playcalling seems to consistently result in suboptimal roles. [ Perry targeted on an endzone fade. McKeon (who at this point we can say lacks natural receiving talent) being deployed as a WR at times. Collins as a screen guy.] Maybe this is intended as deception but there’s enough of it going on to wonder about decision-making.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3893
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 30, 2018 at 12:07 PM

      Uche at DE – a revelation. He didn’t just get 2 sacks he absolutely blew by his guy several times. Maybe better OL will keep him in check but right now you have to be lifting Gary for Uche on any obvious passing down IMO. Gary is still clearly struggling a bit with that shoulder. I always questioned the idea of Uche as a linebacker, especially the notion of him at Viper. He may stick at SAM but the pass-rushing he brings from DE was impactful in this game.

      Paye at DT on standard downs – a failed experiment. On pass-rush he was very good (as you’d expect of a DE). Michigan seems to think he’s their 3rd or 4th best DL right now and I have no reason to think they’re wrong. Still, it seemed like NW was able to run better than they should with him in.

      Dwumfour – hype validated, somewhat. I don’t think he’s too-far off the poor man’s Mo Hurst track. He showed the pass-rush ability yesterday but like young Hurst he’s not a run-stopper. Hurst got there, I don’t know if Dwumfour will.

      Bottomline – you can see a nice DL rotation developing here, especially when Solomon returns. I read his knee injury was a meniscus which means he’ll likely be back by PSU if not sooner.

  7. MGoStrength
    Comments: 12
    Joined: 12/17/2015
    MGoStrength
    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:19 PM

    We seem to have so many coaching issues on offense. Is Harbaugh not as good of a coach as we thought or does he not hire good assistants on offense because he wants to run the show? After watching OSU/PSU our play calling and general offensive scheme seems so non-threatening to the defense and it never seems to figure it out. What is the fundamental problem and will it ever get solved as long as JH is running the helm?

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3893
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 30, 2018 at 10:48 PM

      His system (like Bo’s) is dependant on a dominant OL.

      • Comments: 845
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Oct 01, 2018 at 6:18 AM

        Assuming he even has a “system” (which we’ve seen no sign of yet), he certainly doesn’t seem to care much about recruiting the OTs you need to have a dominant offensive line.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3893
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 01, 2018 at 4:09 PM

          We’ve seen signs that the intended ‘system’ looks a lot like Stanford, which looks a lot like Bo-era M.

          They haven’t had the horses on the OL. In large part because they’ve been patching leaks with every capable true freshman, robbing future teams of the 5th year OL that tend to populate all-conference teams (and liability-free OLs).

          The outline is there, if you want to see it. No guarantees tho.

  8. Comments: 569
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Oct 01, 2018 at 1:48 AM

    Did I read that I shouldn’t complain about the win because I need to reference the Hoke era? Did I really read that? That’s a pretty low standard.

    Hey, that was a great win. I watched the Rutgers game and I am here to tell you UM should be proud of that performance.

  9. Lanknows
    Comments: 3893
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 01, 2018 at 3:02 PM

    “I guess this season is all about mental calibration.”
    Brian Cook’s comment seems relevant to the fan satisfaction debate above.

    Anyone who wants to hold Michigan to a standard they won’t meet is choosing misery over joy. It’s that simple.

    The objective bar is set to 9-3. You can raise your personal bar it to 10-2, 14-0, whatever you want. Feel entitled, if you want. Just don’t be surprised when an objective-minded observers mocks you for getting all riled up when Michigan is exactly as good as they are expected to be.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3893
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 01, 2018 at 3:05 PM

      And of course, your feelings are your feelings.

      It’s just unfortunate when that turns into counter-productive bitching about the coach being “on the hot seat” or encouraging a QB to transfer. That mentality can hurt the program. Something the “I demand excellence” fans don’t seem to get.

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