Michigan 29, Indiana 7

Michigan 29, Indiana 7

November 7, 2021
Luke Schoonmaker (image via USA Today)

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Eat your vitamins. My biggest takeaway from this game is that Michigan needs to get healthy. Going into the game, Michigan was missing RB Donovan Edwards and TE Erick All. And here are the players who got injured during the game: QB Cade McNamara (lower body), RB Blake Corum (lower leg), CB Gemon Green (shoulder), WR Andrel Anthony (unknown). Luckily, the Wolverines had a big enough advantage in this game that it ended up not affecting the outcome, but the toughest stretch of the schedule is coming up, with Penn State next week and Ohio State in three weeks.

Hit the jump for more.

Hassan Haskins carried the load. Praise be to Hassan Haskins, who had a great game. He tied a career high for rushing attempts (27) and set a career high for rushing yards (168). He repeatedly gained yards after contact, and his 62-yard run (the second longest of his career) was a thing of beauty, both for him and for the offensive line. With Edwards missing the game and Corum getting hurt after one carry, the Wolverines were down to walk-on Leon Franklin and freshman fifth-stringer Tavierre Dunlap to relieve Haskins. Hopefully Corum and Edwards can return soon, but as a runner, Franklin should not be on the field in key situations. (Side note: As soon as Haskins broke through the line on his 62-yarder, I said aloud, “He’s gonna get caught,” which he did. So I found it humorous when at halftime, Brady Quinn said something about Haskins’s “home run speed.” Haskins is a very good running back, but he only has warning track power.)

Position switch(es) coming? Considering the running back situation, I have a couple suggestions for players who might be able to fill a role at running back:

  • LB Michael Barrett: Barrett has not played a ton at linebacker this season. Coincidentally, he played more against Indiana than at any other time this year. Jim Harbaugh said after the game that the team was trying to make fewer substitutions, so putting a S/LB hybrid out there prevented them from having to sub in and out so much. Barrett was a QB in high school and played some on offense, mostly at slot receiver, when he first arrived in Ann Arbor. At 6’0″ and 227 lbs., he’s the right size for the position.
  • QB Dan Villari: Villari was compared in the off-season to the New Orleans Saints’ Taysom Hill, a do-everything QB who has played at WR, TE, FB, and RB, too. At 6’4″ and 235 lbs., he’s not a ready-made running back body type, but he has been used exclusively as a runner so far in his limited opportunities during blowouts (7 carries for 21 yards). As a QB he should have enough knowledge of the playbook to make a pretty seamless transition, even if his skill set does not lean toward greatness.

Josh Gattis with another questionable game. Gattis comes out with some good game plans against the good teams on his schedule, such as when he opened up the passing game for McNamara to throw for 383 yards against Michigan State. It seems like he saves up his brain power for big games, though, and the Indiana game plan saw the Hoosiers stopping Michigan’s inside run pretty well. They consistently “guessed” right, putting two guys coming off the edge and taking advantage of the fact that McNamara won’t keep the ball on zone “reads.” They also had some effective stunts up front that Michigan’s offensive line completely failed to identify, getting to the QB with more regularity than any other team this season. The best thing Michigan did was break out the outside zone play – something I’ve been wanting to see for several weeks – which turned into Haskins’s 62-yarder. It also opened up the naked bootleg that turned into Luke Schoonmaker’s first touchdown catch.

There’s a reason Cade McNamara is starting. I hope everyone saw what I saw, and that is that J.J. McCarthy is not a starting-caliber quarterback right now. Even late in the game, when Indiana had kind of succumbed to not being able to win the game, they were still able to rattle McCarthy. McCarthy was 5/10 for 55 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception in mop-up duty, while also taking 2 sacks and throwing some dangerous incompletions. Meanwhile, McNamara was 10/18 for 168 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, with 1 sack (and, to be fair, one dangerous incompletion). I do not like playing freshmen at almost any position, and that includes at quarterback. McCarthy is at least one season away from being a capable starter.

The problem with running quarterbacks. I thought Indiana came into the game with a decent game plan: run the QB (which worked okay for Rutgers and Nebraska) and get the ball out quickly to the edges. That worked for a little bit. But by the end of the game, Donaven McCulley (10/24, 88 yards; 14 carries for 37 yards) seemed skittish. He was making bad decisions, the offensive line was making mistakes, and McCulley was just trying to get rid of the ball. Indiana wasn’t able to sustain much, which put McCulley in a bind. Kudos to offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan (a former Michigan QB) for trying to make chicken salad out of chicken s*** with a backup QB, backup running backs, etc. But there’s only so much you can do with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo coming off the edges.

What a great pass rush combo. Michigan has two defensive ends (okay, outside linebackers) who are in the top 17 nationally in sacks. David Ojabo has 8 – along with 4 forced fumbles – and Aidan Hutchinson has 7. Quarterbacks know they can’t sit in the pocket for long, so they have to resort to fancy play action, quick passes to the edge, and the hope of a running game. Indiana had some decent chunk runs, but their running backs aren’t capable of hitting home runs. They needed to be able to throw the ball to win, and a team like Indiana just doesn’t have the talent to do that.

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