Michigan 45, SMU 20

Michigan 45, SMU 20


September 15, 2018

Zach Gentry (image via Valdosta Daily Times)

Donovan Peoples-Jones had his breakout game. I predicted a breakout game for Peoples-Jones with 100+ yards and a touchdown, but it was even better than that. He caught 4 passes for 90 yards and 3 touchdowns. I did not think SMU’s secondary would match up well with Peoples-Jones, and they didn’t. He had his way with their defensive backs all day, and the only thing that prevented him from going off even more was questionable offensive line play. I don’t think Peoples-Jones will get a lot of opportunities to have days like this due to the offensive line and a questionable offensive philosophy altogether, so let’s enjoy these 90-yard days while we can.

Hit the jump for the rest of my quick thoughts on the game.

Michigan’s spread offense sucks. When Michigan goes to its trips looks right now, it looks like a team that is just dabbling in the spread. Earlier in my coaching career, we were primarily an I-formation team. If we got down late in the game, we would run some trips formations, 2×2 formations, etc., and do some really easy, obvious things (bubble slant, hitches, curl-flat, switch verts, etc.). That’s where Michigan appears to be right now with its spread offense. They put three wide receivers out there, run inside zone, and use the antiquated playbook of a high school staff that had no idea how to throw the ball effectively.

Khaleke Hudson deserved to get sent to the showers. Hudson needs to learn how to tackle. Quarterback William Brown was wrapped up, and Hudson flew in to the pile, making no attempt to use his hands, arms, or leverage to take him down, and he didn’t bother going for the legs, either. He simply ran into Brown, leading with his helmet. I don’t care if he turned his head to the side a little bit. It’s stupid, it’s unhealthy, and it’s fundamentally unsound football.

If Hudson goes down, teams would be smart to target his backup. I know Jordan Glasgow’s brothers turned out to be very effective starting walk-ons, but both were solid athletes for their position. That’s not the case for Jordan, who’s subpar as an athlete and has yet to flash playmaking ability in his fourth year on campus, save for a pick-six against Wilton Speight in the spring game a couple years ago. Noah Furbush doesn’t have the versatility of Glasgow, so it limits what Michigan can do defensively, but if you’re trying to get your best eleven players on the field, SAM-linebacker-sized Furbush is a notch or two above Glasgow.

It’s time to talk about the safeties. Now that we’re in year three of the Don Brown era, it has become apparent to everyone – most notably other offensive coordinators – that the weakness of Michigan’s defense is the safety position. SMU is not supremely talented at quarterback or receiver, though Josh Proche is a pretty good wideout. Josh Metellus had a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half, but otherwise, safeties Metellus, Tyree Kinnel, and Brad Hawkins had a very rough day. Hawkins blew a coverage that led to a 50-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Metellus had at least two pass interference penalties, and Kinnel had one. With as much as Michigan likes to play man coverage, they need to recruit more cornerback types to play them at wide receiver. These guys who are 5’11” and 205 lbs. aren’t getting it done.In my opinion, Michigan needs to recruit a bunch of 6’1″ corners and explain to them that they can come to Michigan and play a bunch of man coverage. I think the point of recruiting guys like Metellus is to involve them in the run game, but Michigan’s front seven is so good at stopping the run that the safeties don’t need to get that involved.

Michigan needs help at running back. It continues to amaze me that Michigan can’t run the ball better, both from an offensive line and running back perspective. The offensive line has been discussed ad nauseum, but the running back depth gets less attention. With starting running back Karan Higdon out, Michigan trotted out Chris Evans until he pulled a hamstring (or suffered a cramp) and then went most of the rest of the way with walk-on Tru Wilson. Sophomore O’Maury Samuels got a couple carries at the end of the game. Evans needs space to make things happen, and Wilson is just average. He showed some patience and can be decent behind a good offensive line, but Michigan doesn’t have that right now. The Wolverines had better hope Higdon comes back soon, and they need to find a replacement for him for 2019.

The officials took center stage on this one. SMU got 7 first downs on penalties, and Michigan totaled 13 penalties for 137 yards (SMU had 6 for 60). Michigan was indeed undisciplined, and they deserved every penalty called on them, except the pass interference call on Tyree Kinnel when the ball was thrown 5 yards out of bounds. It was a bit of a boring game to watch because there were so many stoppages in the third quarter. I would have been very antsy if I had been sitting at the game – between the injury timeouts (mostly for cramping) and all the yellow laundry on the field, it made for a long afternoon. The one saving grace was that the teams ran 72 times (compared to 52 passes), so the clock kept running, while some games might have featured a bunch of incomplete passes. The game script helped this one end after 3 hours and 24 minutes; for a comparison, Notre Dame was 3:22 and Western Michigan was 3:12.

25 comments

  1. Comments: 7
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Ramrod
    Sep 15, 2018 at 10:57 PM

    What is with all the cramping issues? I didn’t really notice SMU players cramping as much. Plus the ND game there were cramping issues. Is that on the players for not being hydrated? Or the new strength and conditioning staff? Seems excessive to me, where the other team doesn’t seem to have this problem

    • Comments: 40
      Joined: 9/18/2016
      Chowman
      Sep 16, 2018 at 8:59 AM

      It’s what happens when you reduce your % body fat. The body stores excess water in the fat of the body. It’s very important that you stay hydrated when you have a low % of body fat. I knew a guy at my gym that was training for a bodybuilding competition, got his body fat % down to 5 or 6%, got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. He became dehydrated and basically every muscle in his body went in to spasm (cramped) at once. He said he thought he was going to die, worst pain of his life cause every part of his body cramped.

      • Comments: 1
        Joined: 7/3/2018
        prwillard2
        Sep 17, 2018 at 12:15 AM

        why isn’t the training staff giving every player an IV at halftime? I just don’t get it. players get IV’s all the time

  2. Comments: 106
    Joined: 10/22/2015
    SinCityBlue
    Sep 15, 2018 at 11:50 PM

    Can you school me on the defensive secondary scheme? My thought is that if the Proche WR from SMU is abusing Metellus then why not move one of the CBs inside to cover him? Why continue to put a safety on the only threat SMU has that’s been hurting us at the WR position?

  3. Comments: 4
    Joined: 9/17/2017
    nofunforfu
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:50 AM

    Agree on almost all points.

    I played football in HS in a run-heavy offense and watch too much football (or at least wife says so). And Michigan’s spread offense looks like something I would try to put together: I know how it “should” look but don’t know how to teach or game plan for it properly. Right now the offense looks like the coaches want to be a spread team but don’t know exactly how to implement this. And while they have put up a lot of points the last two weeks I don’t see a lot of precision in how the offense is operating when in a spread look.

    From a RB perspective I am extremely disappointed in how the depth seems to be shaking out. You would imagine a run-heavy offense would be able to recruit some decent talent, but in year 4 of Harbaugh having a walk on as our #3 is frustrating. The depth has certainly been hurt by transfers (Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis) and the late loss of AJ Dillon from last years class, but at this point I was expecting more. When Tru Wilson is apparently outplaying 4 scholarship RB’s (Samuels, Taylor, Turner, and Haskins) I question the talent evaluation. As others have stated, RB is a position you want guys who can “make plays”. Wilson seems like someone who will run hard and get what’s blocked…but that’s it. And with the way this offensive line is blocking, getting what’s blocked may not be much against most teams.

    On a positive note…I was glad to see how DPJ was involved and performed, and liked the few times Patterson seemed to just throw it to DPJ or Gentry and allowed them to try to make a play on the ball. Additionally I continue to be impressed by Patterson’s accuracy and would feel more comfortable with him leading a late drive than I have since late in Rudock’s season.

    • Comments: 848
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 16, 2018 at 8:28 AM

      All of those non-contributing scholarship RBs you mention are the ones that the clear-eyed among us were skeptical about when they committed, for which we were castigated and told to “trust the coaches”, because they know infinitely more about evaluating talent than any of us.

      Yesterday is a prime example of why it’s dumb to have only two playable RBs because (supposedly) the contribution of anyone after that doesn’t matter and won’t be needed except in garbage time.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3825
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 16, 2018 at 1:40 PM

        YPC on the season:

        Higdon 6.7
        Wilson 6.3
        Evans 5.7

        Samuels looked pretty fast in his few carries too.

        I’d bet Samuels ends up a quality player. I think Wilson is ahead of him now because a) Michigan has 2 top guys that will handle every meaningful down and b) his pass-blocking is exemplary. That’s something for the more talented freshman to focus on developing.

        • Comments: 962
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Sep 16, 2018 at 2:31 PM

          Samuels can be a really good one behind a solid OL. Until then, I don’t think he’s ready for a physical B1G slate

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3825
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 16, 2018 at 2:47 PM

            The OL is the thing is my thing. We don’t have a Saquan Barkley type talent on this roster. The backs are just guys. Pretty good guys but, like the vast majority of RBs, replaceable. They’ll do well when the OL makes gashing holes and they’ll do not much when the OL doesn’t.

            Michigan’s inability to assert dominance on SMU – particularly in short yardage situations – speaks to the ground attack’s limitations.

            What that means: The run game is opponent dependent. Even thought there is a lot of talk about this back or that back, this tackle or that tackle, the playcalls, etc. Doesn’t really matter compared to who is lining up on the other side.

            I hoped it would be otherwise but I think it is what it is this season. Maybe there will be some games where the playcalling lifts the offense, or maybe there will be some where the pass game opens things up for the ground attack.

            I’d love to be wrong. I had hopes the OL could maul people and they’d get some sort of offensive identity based off a strong foundation of a running attack. Maybe the Xs and Os people are seeing it. I’m not.

  4. Comments: 229
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 16, 2018 at 6:00 AM

    To the defenses credit, with the offense struggling, they made the play of the game – something we didn’t see happen against ND.
    SMU, driving for a potential halftime tying score or at least a field goal. Metellus’ pik 6 was the play of the game, great blocking and run with a couple great cuts to give breathing room and a huge psychological uplift as time ran out to end the half.
    Overall, yeah a sloppy game for Michigan on several levels but given the last 10 years, I’m not going to complain about a 45-20 win toooo much. INTjohn

  5. Comments: 848
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Sep 16, 2018 at 7:48 AM

    Bottom line…our offense isn’t very good, and our defense isn’t very good, not compared to where we should be this year. This is looking very much like an 8-4 team, maybe 9-3 if we’re very lucky.

    On offense, the coaching staff seems to have no idea what kind of offense they want to run. They’ve got about 8 plays in the playbook, and they run them all in a slow, plodding way…no rhythm, no crispness, nothing to worry defenses at all. The passing game was working much better than the running game, and we still only attempted 18 passes. Our best receiver had 4 catches, while theirs had 11. Why?

    Defense had no discipline, and really only has 2 playmakers, Winovich and Bush. Everyone in the secondary has regressed. Quarterback pressure is very disappointing, and they do nothing to make things difficult for opposing offenses. Yesterday they were completely unable to put together a good series. They’d make a couple decent plays, and then fall apart on third down or fourth down, over and over and over. Gary is maybe the biggest disappointment of all. There are just too many plays that he ALMOST makes. Watching him the first three games, I have no idea why he’s projected as a first round pick.

    • Comments: 229
      Joined: 12/24/2016
      INTJohn
      Sep 16, 2018 at 8:50 AM

      Geeez. Your kawfee seems a little bitter this morning. Here, let me give you some sugar……..

      If you think Michigan’s offense is bad take a look at my other team’s; Taggart’s dream job at FSU is turning into a nightmare.
      ……..and I actually just kind of upgraded my expectations on Michigan’s ’18 record and think that 10-2 is no longer unrealistic; but very attainable. If last week and this week are any indication of B10 ‘strength’ – or lack thereof, Nebraska, Northwestern, Maryland & Wisconsin should be cakewalks for the Wolverines and PSU coming into AA, so far hasn’t yet been proven by any decent opponent. MSU got spankt by ASU who just lost to San Diego St AND even the Buckeyes were struggling mightily against TCU until TCU completely self destructed and gave the game away to OSU………

      The B10 is vulnerable and yes; YES! I’m starting to think Michigan has a very decent chance of winning the thing. Not becuase Michigan is a great team, perse’ but because the B10, evidently, just plain stinks this year.
      As I’m beginning to see it………….INTjohn

      • Comments: 86
        Joined: 9/28/2015
        PapaBear
        Sep 16, 2018 at 9:11 AM

        Feels like Black Saturday! Everyone is so negative! We won by 25. Like INT John said, we could be the other guys.

        Did we not score on every possession after the first quarter? Yes, conservative play calling early. HIgdon was out. At some point, we will let Shea throw 45 times. We are so much better on offensively than a year ago.

      • Comments: 848
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 16, 2018 at 10:27 AM

        If you think Wisconsin is going to be a cakewalk, there’s something in your coffee other than sugar. I saw absolutely nothing yesterday that made me adjust my expectations for this team upward. Your response has no facts about our team, just giddy optimism. That’s certainly your perogative, but I’ll have to see a lot more before I’ll drink that Kool-Aid. How other teams have played their first few games have nothing to do with the trajectory for our players. It does not improve our Oline play or our offensive play calling.

        As far as OSU, they were never “struggling mightily”. They had a close first half against a talented, well-coached team. We are nowhere near either of those teams.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3825
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 16, 2018 at 1:30 PM

          I incremented my hopes for beating Wisconsin downward after yesterday. Despite Wisc getting upset by an inferior team 1 week after struggling for a half against an even more inferior team. Both at home.

          Neither looks like the top 15 units they were pegged to be. But Michigan’s issues seem more pressing from where i sit.

          The OT and DT issues are real. Wisc is capable of exploiting both.

        • Comments: 229
          Joined: 12/24/2016
          INTJohn
          Sep 16, 2018 at 10:05 PM

          Lol – if you think I’m a giddy optimist then you’ve never read any of my posts.
          Truth is last year this offense was settling for field goals against AF & Cincy and this year they’re scoring TD’s against the same level of teams………
          And I was never on board about Patterson being the end all but the Offense is WAAAYYY better than it was at this point last season against similar level competition.

          The B10 is proven its weak and yes IF Wisky plays in AA the way they’ve played at home agaisnt the first 3 teams they’ve faced – yeah, the game should be a cakewalk for Mich. Again, the B10 is weak this year and all the press about the B10 East being the toughest division in the country is proving to be bs.
          The championship is a seemingly wide open race at this point and Michigan has as good a chance or better at winning the thing as anyone at this point except MAYBE OSU and even they’ve shown me that they can be beaten IF one doesn’t beat themselves like TCU did by fuckeyeing the game away to em. (And the refs gave OSU a td early when it shouldn’t have even been a td) Yeah TCU was kicking their ass till they self destructed. (And SMU played TCU pretty tough for awhile, too, couple weex back so maybe SMU is a lot better than we thought.)

          Michigan isn’t a great team but no one else in the B10 is either so yeah I’ve upgraded the Wolverines to the best chance of unseating OSU for the East division champ and it looks like Iowa is actually the class of the West – not Wisky.

          Is the B10 champ going to get in the playoffs? Prolly not; especially if ND keeps winning but that doesn’t mean that Harbaugh can’t motivate & coach this team to a championship this year even if only the division – given that the B10 apparently is not at all that good this year.
          I’ll enjoy watching this team grow and score Td’s vs last years never ending field goal attempts & QB fiascos; At least till/if it ends.

          My preseason guess, I had NW a tossup – now I have it as a comfortable win; I had Wisky in AA as a tossup, I now have it as a comfortable win; I had PSU as a tossup; till PSU shows me otherwise I see it as a comfortable win and I see MSU as a good win , too. Maybe the Wolverines can even upset the Buckeyes in Columbus……..

          Remember a couple years ago when PSU had 2 losses early and came back to win the B10; remember several years back when OSU got smoked at home by Va Tech and came back to win the Naty. Yeah, the B10 is not strong this year and I think Michigan can win this thing. I’m much more confident about that now than I was 4 weex ago.
          No negative vibes…………INTJohn

          • Comments: 848
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Sep 17, 2018 at 6:26 AM

            “My preseason guess, I had NW a tossup – now I have it as a comfortable win; I had Wisky in AA as a tossup, I now have it as a comfortable win; I had PSU as a tossup; till PSU shows me otherwise I see it as a comfortable win and I see MSU as a good win , too. Maybe the Wolverines can even upset the Buckeyes in Columbus……..”

            If that ain’t giddy optimism, I don’t know what is…

            You’ve also fallen into the classic Giddy Optimist trap of assuming that Michigan is going to continue to improve over the course of the season (something Harbaugh’s teams have never actually done here), but that none of our upcoming opponents will do the same.

            • Comments: 229
              Joined: 12/24/2016
              INTJohn
              Sep 17, 2018 at 10:20 PM

              Yes you are so correct! Michigan will lose all of the rest of their games this year because they shitass stink so bad…… haha

              Behind every pessimist is a disillusioned idealist er giddy optimist; i.e U!………..Sorry your life is so pathetically disillusioned because at some point , evidently you’ve mindlessly believed that Michigan football is some entity that is worthy of complete idealistic football utopia…..and reality has broken your heart.
              ……and with your dreams of ??? Shattered, you’ve degenerated into mindless negativity, pessimism and pathetic[ism]…….

              Look it – the Big 10 has sucked for decades. michigan has been awarded (not won) but awarded part of 1 national championship in the last 70 years……..(proally should have had another but Bo was so stupid in the Rose Bowl vs Stanford…..well another post sometime)

              Bo & Woody back in the 70’s – the big 2 & little 8 – had no innovation, creativity, ingenuity whatsoever. Still playing football the way they did in 1949…….which is why every time but 1 game they both got their asses kikt in bowl games. Football had passed them both by and neither of them ever really came to grips with it……… Woody realy lost it! Haha & Bo was close.

              The rest of the b10 was even further behind! Hence B2 & lil 8……. haha

              Now even 2day, the B10 basically stinks. outside of the Zeke Elliot osu team, a once ina generation team; the b10 stinks.
              The last 2 B10 teams in the playoffs have been a joke and to the point where now B10 champions can’t even get a berth.The ACC & SEC are light years passed the B10 just as Teams were 40 & 50 years ago re the B10, er Big 2. Its not any kind of new phenomenon……… been going on for years – decades.

              Now, if Harbaugh gets Michigan back to where they beat the teams they should beat , which apparently it appears he has; and if he can break even against the MOPS (Mich, Ohio, Penn States) the Michigan fan base should accept this as a modern day reality of success. Bowl victories or even a playoff berth should never be expected but simply looked upon as a once in lifetime gift……

              Isn’t fandom so taxing?! Aren’t you glad you have blogs like this for free therapy?!
              Merry Christmas…………INTJohn

  6. Comments: 40
    Joined: 9/18/2016
    Chowman
    Sep 16, 2018 at 11:11 AM

    I agree with the safety play being one of the continuing woes, but another factor that I don’t see talked about enough is the lack of the DTs making plays. Last year Hurst lived in the opposing backfields, and that allowed the rest of the D to clean up. I thought Kemp played ok. Not impressed at all with Dwumfour or Mone. They’re just guys, taking up space and not making any plays. When Winovich and Gary crash in on the ends too many times athletic QBs just step up in the pocket cause the DTs aren’t doing much. Back to the safeties, none of them are suited for man-to-man coverage. Metellus’ interception was more of a zone look. He made a great play, baited the QB, broke well on the ball, and made a his way to the end zone. But later in the game he never looked back on the Proche TD that got call back for holding. He just stuck up his hands and hoped the receiver wouldn’t catch it. Over all I think all of the DBs are way too hands on and we got call a lot for PI penalties. That’s gotta get cleaned up.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3825
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Sep 16, 2018 at 1:45 PM

      I can see some fine tuning but the physical CB play is a hallmark of the defense’s success over the last couple years. It works hand-in-hand with the aggressive pass rush and immediate penetration of the DL.

      So yeah, we’re gonna get beat more often if the DTs aren’t doing what they’ve done the last couple years. I don’t think Brown needs to suddenly get conservative because the DTs are B players instead of A players. The CBs job is going to be harder but “the expectation is for the position”.

      You still want to “Solve your problems”.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 3825
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 16, 2018 at 1:24 PM

    My impressions were negative as well. One can write-off some things in a week 1 at Notre Dame, but not week 3 vs SMU. It may not mean much in the end, but based on what we’ve seen so far – Vanderbilt looks better than Michigan. Brand is the only reason Michigan is ranked and Vandy isn’t.

    OFFENSE

    The biggest eye-opener was the run game struggles. Until a few longer runs late Michigan spent most of the day averaging around 3 ypc against a very weak opponent. I see a lot of people associating this with Higdon’s absence but I don’t think that was a big factor. Wilson looks like a decent player and he’s put up similar stats to Higdon and Evans both weeks he’s played.

    The pass-blocking – it was bad. It’s no surprise at this point but against SMU you’d hope to see better. Patterson saw heat all day. Brutal performance considering the level of difficulty.

    The good news: Patterson is everything he was hyped to be. He’s talented, he’s accurate, he can run, he makes plays. He takes some risk (as advertised) but you take the bad with all that good.

    DEFENSE

    I’m not too upset. SMU hasn’t shown it much but Sonny Dykes is a good offensive coach. It’s not too shocking that they were able to make some plays through the air. Their QB made some good throws and that WR was a quality player who beat our CBs multiple times.

    Our CBs are good players but overrated. They’re not All-Americans. The PFF stats from last year were great but it’s increasingly obvious it’s a system thing. When Michigan has a dominant DL and the CBs are jamming the LOS, you’re gonna have a hard time completing passes outside. This is why you see Lewis, Stribling, Hill, and Long all with those shiny fancy stats. With a DL that’s not getting the same kind of heat, those guys are exposed. Good not great. Woodson and Weather’s perch in the pantheon is secure.

    The talent level at safety is less than it could be. But – I disagree it’s a size issue. I’m disagree that discipline is big problem. I’m giving some allowance for Hawkins being a position-switch guy. My takeaway about safety is that Michigan just needs to recruit a higher level of talent here – starting with a certain visiting 5-star recruit.

    I’ve said it before but Glasgow is fine as a part-time fill-in at Viper. If Hudson was to miss extended time, they’d need to put Mettelus or another safety in. SAM typically swaps for DL.

    • Comments: 962
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 16, 2018 at 2:38 PM

      Proche improved his production from his previous two games combined against us, despite having a backup QB out there. I’m plenty upset about that

      “I’m not too upset. SMU hasn’t shown it much but Sonny Dykes is a good offensive coach. It’s not too shocking that they were able to make some plays through the air. Their QB made some good throws and that WR was a quality player who beat our CBs multiple times.”

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3825
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 16, 2018 at 3:03 PM

        Yes – that’s 2 teams whose QBs looked better against M than others. But – the secondary is the same one that kept opposing passing offenses in check last year. Notable – and perhaps worrisome – exceptions: Haskins & McSorely.

        • Comments: 962
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Sep 16, 2018 at 6:02 PM

          They did that with Mom Hurst living in the opponents’ backfield. We don’t have that any more, and it’s obvious

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3825
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 16, 2018 at 11:10 PM

            Yes. I meant I wasn’t worried about the coverage. Agree the DT play is subpar but Marshall and Solomon are out. Some hope it will get better.

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