What’s Harbaugh’s worst loss at Michigan? Michigan State lost 49-7 to Iowa, so was that it last week? Or was it getting wiped off the field by a team you hadn’t lost to since 1987? The Hoosiers are a better program right now than the Spartans, so there’s less shame in a competitive sense. But still, even Rich Rodriguez (2-0) and Brady Hoke (2-0) managed not to lose to Indiana.
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This is a weird f***ing year. Michigan has two guys playing in the Senior Bowl who aren’t wearing a winged helmet for a single snap this year. Nico Collins and Ambry Thomas – justified or not – both ditched their team. The third guy who opted out, Jalen Mayfield, came back only to get injured in game two and miss this week’s contest. The offensive cherry on top was the absence of injured left tackle Ryan Hayes. Defensively, late in the game when Michigan needed a stop, the Wolverines were playing Gabe Newburg (not potential 1st round pick Kwity Paye), Taylor Upshaw (not some people’s All-American Kwity Paye), and Adam Shibley (not Cam McGrone) in the front seven. When the 2019 season ended, this is definitively not the team we were expecting to see. All told, by the end of the Indiana game, Michigan was missing 7 out of 22 expected starters: Thomas, Paye, Hutchinson, Hayes, McGrone, Mayfield, and Collins.
Sorry, but I expect more from Joe Milton. I actually think Milton took some baby steps forward this week after the Michigan State game, but 18/34 for 344 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions isn’t good enough. We have to remember that Indiana is a team against which Michigan quarterbacks and receivers have set numerous passing records and career highs in the last decade, including Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon, Jake Rudock, Jehu Chesson, Shea Patterson, and Nico Collins. The Hoosiers are roughly the same team. They play hard and have decent athletes, but they just can’t match up 11-on-11. That should have been the case yet again in 2020, but open receivers were continuously missed by Milton. Completing 52.9% of your passes isn’t good enough. Milton consistently misses deep receivers, open or otherwise.
I expect more from Josh Gattis. Michigan did not call a single quarterback run in this game, with a 6’5″, 243 lb. quarterback who runs a 4.62 forty. Altogether, the team averaged 0.7 yards/carry (18 carries for 13 yards). I honestly would not be surprised to hear soon that a running back is going to transfer. Michigan took top-100 recruit Zach Charbonnet and gave him exactly 1 carry in this game. Fifth year senior Chris Evans had 4 touches, freshman Blake Corum had 3, and the guy averaging 9.9 yards/carry going into this game had 6. There’s no rhyme, reason, or rhythm to the running game or running back rotation. The back with the most carries going into this game (Hassan Haskins with 14) ranked #23 in the Big Ten conference.
Eject the defensive line. In my high school program, any player who jumps offsides two times sits on the bench for the remainder of the half. If he comes back in during the second half and jumps again, he goes back to the bench. Michigan has made a habit of jumping offsides. I don’t understand how this is a thing for high-level football players. You don’t listen to auditory clues (claps, cadences, etc.). You watch the football. There’s no excuse.
Eject Erick All and Vincent Gray. On the bright side, Erick All seemed to play less in this game, which is good because he has been mostly terrible at catching the ball. Off the top of my head, he has 5 catches and 4 drops this season. Vincent Gray once more got abused at cornerback in this game. For some unknown reason, he played the whole way.
Praise for Ronnie Bell. I had someone on Twitter say last week he thought Bell would be on the bench by the end of the season because other receivers would outplay him, and I had to guffaw. Bell is Michigan’s best receiver, if not the Offensive MVP. He blocks, he catches the ball, and he runs after the catch. No, he does not have great speed and sometimes he falls down for no reason, but nobody’s perfect. Bell had 6 catches for 149 yards and 1 touchdown and almost single-handedly got the team back in the game late.
How bad would this defense be without Daxton Hill? Hill was tasked with following around Indiana star receiver Whop Philyor and held him to 74 yards on 11 catches. Otherwise, the defense had 0 sacks for the second consecutive week. Penn State had 6 tackles for loss against the Hoosiers in week one. Rutgers had 7 in week two. Michigan had 3. Brad Hawkins, once thought to be headed to Michigan to play receiver, dropped yet another interception.
This is going to be a long year. It’s 2020 and anything can happen, but I don’t see many of these issues getting fixed. I want to reiterate that I do see improvement from Joe Milton, and good QB play can make up for some other weaknesses. There’s also a history of Ed Warinner offensive lines improving significantly throughout a season. But I’m grasping and clawing for hope here. Michigan still has Wisconsin (potentially, if their COVID issues resolve), Penn State (dangerous though 0-3), and Ohio State (*gulp*) left. Oh, and Maryland, which blew out Penn State and put up 7,000 yards against Minnesota.
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