Michigan 49, Western Michigan 3

Michigan 49, Western Michigan 3


September 9, 2018

Nico Collins (image via Detroit Free Press)

I was otherwise engaged all day Saturday, so I didn’t finish watching the DVRed Michigan game until 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Here are just a few takeaways from the game.

THREE GOOD THINGS

  1. Shea Patterson looked really good. I thought Patterson had one bad throw on what should have been a touchdown to Sean McKeon, but otherwise, he was pretty excellent. He finished 12/17 for 125 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The most impressive thing was how accurately he threw the ball on the run. He did similar things against Notre Dame last week, for the most part. Things seem a little discombobulated with him at times, and the timing doesn’t seem to be there with everyone on the offense.
  2. The running game took off. It doesn’t really prove anything for the long run, because Michigan still has to do it against the good teams. But at least the offensive line and running backs did what they should do against a MAC team. They ran for 308 yards on 8.8 yards/carry. Karan Higdon (13 carries, 156 yards, 1 TD) broke off 67- and 43-yard runs. I predicted 140 yards for him, and he had that by the end of the first quarter.
  3. Nico Collins looks the part of a deep threat. There were rumors coming out of camp that Collins was the best wide receiver on the team, and he looks the part…kind of. So far he’s the guy who has been able to get behind defenses, but it only translated to 1 catch for a 44-yard touchdown in this one. He also caught a deep ball last week. The real question is whether he can be more consistently used on short and intermediate routes.

THREE BAD THINGS

  1. Wide receiver depth is questionable. We already knew this, but man, Michigan is thin at wide receiver. We need to hope that Michigan doesn’t suffer any more injuries this season, because what we see now in the starting lineup is about all the Wolverines have. Walk-on Jake McCurry impressed people in the off-season and caught a touchdown pass from Dylan McCaffrey, so maybe he can play a little bit, but once the starters leave the field…Jake McCurry is on it.
  2. The offensive line did not impress me. Michigan should be mauling a team like Western Michigan up front, but that really was not the case. They did a good job in the running game, and the running backs were simply too good for WMU’s linebackers and secondary to tackle. But I hoped for a more dominating performance from the offensive line, and some of those guys still weren’t getting the movement up front that they should.
  3. The interior defensive line is not good. Michigan’s defensive tackle situation is the worst it has been in several years. Those guys aren’t making any plays whatsoever. Luckily, Michigan has good defensive ends and linebackers, but I thought somebody would flash a little bit. Instead, the defensive tackles combined for 8 tackles, 0 tackles for loss, and 0 sacks. Nose tackle Aubrey Solomon should be the best of the group, but he’s injured right now and had knee surgery last week with no return timetable right now.

18 comments

  1. DonAZ
    Comments: 389
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Sep 09, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    I did not watch the game, I listened on the radio. Did the Michigan coaches use this game productively? By that I mean: use the game to work on elements of the game that needed work?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2605
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 09, 2018 at 8:08 AM

      I guess that depends on what you mean by “productively.” They did the things I wanted them to work on when I talked about it last week (work on play action pass, work on inside zone, etc.). They didn’t do much fancy stuff on offense, other than a jet sweep with Ambry Thomas and then a run off the jet sweep action. They ran 1 screen that was executed poorly, but it was a very, very simple screen that probably took about 2 seconds to install that it looked like they only practiced once.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 389
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Sep 09, 2018 at 8:43 AM

        You touched on what I was getting at.

        I would have been disappointed if Michigan had relied on just the running game against WMU, on the thinking that “a win is a win.” They can’t win again good defenses with just a running game. Not with this offensive line. Similarly, running a bunch of trick plays to run up the score would just be playground football, which wouldn’t mean much later in the season.

        My hope was they’d work on things that can be plausibly used against a good defense … at least to keep those good defenses semi-honest. It sounds like they did some of that. That’s good.

        As I said, I listed on the radio. Michigan’s radio announcers are not that good. It’s hard to get a sense from them about the game — either what happened on the last play, or the broader themes that are unfolding. It is possible to do that on the radio — I listen to other games and their announcers achieve those goals — but Michigan’s announcers lack the skill.

    • Comments: 921
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 09, 2018 at 11:01 AM

      The start of the game was an absolute clusterF…
      RBs & WRs looked great. DTs got no push or production, but shutting any team for 3.75Q is still an accomplishment; our D deserves credit for that. DPJ & nordin will make you face palm at SpTms

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3760
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 09, 2018 at 2:17 PM

        The start was brutal and frightening. The rest of the game thankfully was much different.

        I did not see anything different from the backs. They looked like they’ve looked for the last year though Evans is clearly bigger. The difference was the holes they had to run through – presumably thanks to the opponent more than a massive uptick by the OL.

      • Comments: 226
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        INTJohn
        Sep 09, 2018 at 3:03 PM

        Don’t give the punting game an ‘A’ yet either. Yeah on the surface 52 yard punts seem really good but the 2 that were returned were run back about 10 yards each and thats a net of 42ish yards which is about what you expect to gain in field position from a punt.

        The problem is that when punts are being returned 10 yards its only a matter of time before one or more gets taken to the house……..
        ……….and Murphy’s Law says it will occur in a close game against a rival.
        If the punter is going to keep kicking them 50+ yards, he better start kicking them 25 feet higher so he quits out kicking the coverage and or scale them back a lil bit and force a fair catch.
        Just sayin………INTJohn

  2. Comments: 794
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Sep 09, 2018 at 8:31 AM

    Patterson didn’t look bad, but our passing game is still very meh. Other than 1 big pass (which would not have been completed against a good defender), his YPA was less than 6, which is pretty poor against an underpowered MAC team. Patterson will not be engineering any serious comebacks with the weapons he has.

    Our defense is stubborn, but not dominant, and that won’t change unless somebody new breaks out at DT (not holding my breath).

    • Comments: 36
      Joined: 9/18/2016
      Chowman
      Sep 09, 2018 at 8:36 AM

      The tackles still played poorly. Too many plays Patterson had like 2 seconds to get rid of the ball or run cause the ends were already up field. Very disappointed with the DT play. First I’ve heard of Solomon’s knee injury, but makes sense why I haven’t seen him on the field.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 389
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Sep 09, 2018 at 8:46 AM

        The glaring deficiencies seem to be the tackle positions — offensive and defensive. Given the lack of recruiting focus on OT, it’s understandable why there’s an issue there. I’m not sure why the DTs are under-performing.

        • Blue in NC
          Comments: 39
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Blue in NC
          Sep 11, 2018 at 9:35 AM

          I have concerns but I would not say the DTs are under-performing unless you were expecting Mo Hurst. Solomon (probably our best guy) is out, Mone has been decent, Marshall is just a guy and Dwumfor has been very inconsistent (although disappointing given the hype). While I hoped for more, not sure we had a right to expect more. We have been spoiled the past few years. Kemp actually looked better than I thought he would. I think we have one difference maker (Solomon) and the other guys are just okay to good right now.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3760
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 11, 2018 at 11:37 AM

            My feeling was that expected improvement from Mone and especially Solomon, combined with a break-out year from Dwumfour was going to largely (though not entirely) offset Hurst.

            Solomon’s injury is a big blow and balloon has burst on Dwumfour. Double whammy.

            Jeter not being further ahead is also a bit of bummer, though injury may be playing a part in this too.

            I’m not convinced on Kemp given it was WMU, but supposedly their OC is good. My assumption is that his 2018 ceiling is about Marshall-level given his size and the position switch. Still, it was clearly a wise move for depth.

            ————————————-

            Looking ahead to Wisconsin/MSU/PSU, Michigan could really use some combination of the following;

            Marshall gets healthy.

            Solomon gets healthy and returns to at least 2017-level performance.

            Dwumfour starts to legitimize some of the hype.

            Kemp steps up.

    • Comments: 921
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 09, 2018 at 11:04 AM

      His YPA was 7.4

      • Comments: 794
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 09, 2018 at 12:29 PM

        Even including the outlier, that’s still pretty meh against a weak MAC opponent.

        • DonAZ
          Comments: 389
          Joined: 8/12/2015
          DonAZ
          Sep 09, 2018 at 12:48 PM

          There’s a part of me that suspects Harbaugh has a leash on Patterson: “Show me you can do the basic stuff, and we’ll let you do the other stuff.” This WMU game, I think, showed that to some degree Patterson can be trusted. I think we’ll see Patterson do more against SMU.
          /hunch

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3760
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 09, 2018 at 2:14 PM

          Valid critique but I think if you set the bar much higher this season you’ll end up disappointed.

          The focus on short-passing (understandable given OL, necessary for balance) will keep YPA suppressed. In terms of passing stats, I’ll be more interested in completion percentage, sacks allowed, and red-zone effectiveness.

          The last being perhaps the most dubious, but I keep hearing about our tall TE and our tall WR so there should be some passing TD opportunities near the goalline.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 3760
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 09, 2018 at 10:04 AM

    Typical of a cupcake, not much new was learned. A few of my takeaways:

    Cliffnotes:

    Team looks pretty good overall but DT depth and OT remain weaknesses that could sabotage the whole thing. Cross your fingers on Aubrey Solomon. He might be the difference between this being a fringe top 10 team and finishing 3rd in our division.

    Offense:

    OL was gashing at times and Runyan settled in a bit. Patterson said he’s never seen holes that big and True Wilson ran for 9 ypc. But yeah, the opponent. I’m with Thunder – should be dominating every down and the pocket should be germ-free. Nothing new here – OL is not a strength – but they’ll overpower a weak opponent. We’ve seen worse.

    Good news: the coaches seem set on leaning on the short passing game to help the OL. Playcalling was still lots of shotgun with Shea looking the part. I had some worry that they’d change the offense to pure manball this week but they stuck to the week 1 script.

    Patterson is really really good at throwing on the run which is going to be crucial all year. Shouldn’t have to much against WMU but we already covered the OL. Patterson should have been pulled earlier IMO.

    WR depth was fine. Martin, Collins, DPJ stepping up. Perry looks the same but maybe a little more spring in his step this year. No bad drops yet. Schoenle and Black will return we’re told. Even now, McCurry isn’t in the rotation. He was in at the same time that Carl Meyers and Ronald Johnson were playing.

    Ambry got in, as the fans called for.

    The supposed ‘matchup nightmare’ at flex TE doesn’t look like any sort of standout after 2 games. Despite playing almost every meaningful down. Probably crushing in IM basketball tho.

    Defense:

    Josh Ross had a few nice plays that caught my eye. Don’t know about down to down consistency but he seems to be flashing a little more often than Gil. Nothing conclusive here but I found it encouraging.

    It was garbage time but I liked how Jordon Anthony looked too. FWIW.

    DT depth is an issue with Solomon & Marshall out. Mone played a lot because he had to. He’s our best interior DL right now and it’s not close. Kemp played some core (I won’t say meaningful) downs. Dwumfour was still in well after starters were pulled (hmmm). Jeter got in but I hope he’s still recovering from something because his snaps came at the same time as Meyer’s. Nobody stood out though Mone was consistently effective.

    Injury excuses aside, this was validation that DT is a weak link. We need Solomon to return healthy and play to his talent. The leap from Dwumfour isn’t there yet and not clear if it’s coming this year. Worth remembering what Hurst and Charlton looked like in 2015 (liabilities) vs 2016 (all conference talent) but somebody needs to step up in 2018 and it’s probably not going to be Dwumfour.

    Saw a good bit of Furbush/Uche in this one. That’ll need to continue.

    Western wasn’t afraid of our corners but those guys showed they are still pretty good.

    I didn’t spot JKP or Woods (though I could have missed them). Hawkins got snaps but Metellus and Kinnel stayed in till very late I noticed. Not sure if this is coaching up those guys or injuries to the backups.

    They probably won’t do it but a red-shirt for JKP would be nice. They can take advantage of that 4-game rule and get him an extra year it could be huge a few years down. Seems like they have enough secondary depth (Watson, Thomas, Hawkins, Woods, Glasgow) and LBs to cover special teams needs.

    Somebody posted a clip where Rashan Gary was triple-teamed by WMU OL.

    Special teams:

    There were booming punts! That’s legit encouraging.

    DPJ and Nordin are still shaky AF. That’s not.

    Other:

    Playing some power conference opponents (Iowa State, Colorado, ASU, Virginia, Duke) shed some light on the rest of the Big 10. Struggles against teams like New Mexico, Fresno State and EMU might just be blips but were interesting too.

    Overall it’s safe to say the Big Ten looks much weaker than expected thusfar. Probably a good thing for Michigan that the Wisc-MSU-PSU gauntlet maybe won’t be as brutal as it looked a few weeks ago. Just as important, though. Maybe the odds of getting through it with fewer than 2 losses have gone up.

    • Comments: 4
      Joined: 9/4/2015
      Blue4life
      Sep 09, 2018 at 11:19 PM

      LK good “cliff notes”. You are really pretty spot on. Only 4 observations I wanted to pile on in week 2. First JRjr is the worst LT we have had since I can remember watching as a 9yr old in 1987 under Bo. Proof is in the tape. Watch 8 of the first 10 offensive plays. The dude blocks air literally. Hoping he will either drastically improve in week 3 or they find a replacement. Steuber and Hudson looks good in mop duty. Second yes DT play is lacking but primarily due to the depth issues regarding injuries. Third we have enough to beat everyone other than Ohio. Losing to ND will haunt us 51 more weeks. And lastly McAffery might be the best qb JH has worked with since Luck. Not sayin Shea isn’t better right now but McAffery has the poise/moxie of another #10 I used to watch.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3760
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 09, 2018 at 11:46 PM

        Win the Big10 east and nobody gives a damn about ND.

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