You can’t ask for much more. The last time Michigan scored at least 52 points, it was just over a year ago in a 56-10 win over Nebraska in year one of the Scott Frost era. The Wolverines needed to put together a complete game in all three phases of the game, and they did so. There were a few mistakes – as there always will be – but the offense was efficient, the defense put up a shutout, and special teams created a fumble while also finally getting a decent punt returner involved once again in Donovan Peoples-Jones. It was a good old-fashioned romp.
Hit the jump for more.
The offense looked a lot more in sync. I don’t know why, but the offense looked a lot smoother. Was it because Shea Patterson stepped up to the challenge? Was it because offensive coordinator Josh Gattis moved from the booth down to the sideline? Was it because Rutgers is bad? Michigan has outscored Rutgers 256-37 over the last five contests, so maybe this game was just what the doctor ordered. This performance doesn’t mean Michigan is over the hump, but it does show the potential to get there. We’ve seen truly floundering teams have trouble with Rutgers – like the 2014 team that lost in Brady Hoke’s final season – but this was a resounding victory.
Michigan seemed to realize who they should be. I need to start off by using a caveat that I’m certainly not glad that Sean McKeon is hurt, BUT the dropoff between Michigan’s #2 tight end and its #3 tight end is so significant that the Wolverines couldn’t play a much 12 personnel. In past weeks Michigan has tried to force McKeon and Nick Eubanks onto the field, and that’s not how this offense should be operating. McKeon’s absence meant Eubanks was the lone tight end on the field for most of the non-garbage time snaps, keeping the more skilled wide receivers on the field. That spreads out the defense more and gives Michigan better options in the passing game. It showed, with Patterson going 17/23 for 276 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
The Ronnie Bell breakout continues. My season predictions aren’t perfect – and there will be plenty to grumble about – but I was pilloried for ranking Bell at #27 in the 2019 Season Countdown. At this point some people might argue that I ranked him too low. After 2 catches for 18 yards in the season opener, he notched his third straight 80+ yard performance with 6 catches for 83 yards. Shea Patterson loves him some Ronnie Bell, and it shows.
The Cam McGrone breakout begins. McGrone earned his first start with Josh Ross out injured. While McGrone only made 1 tackle, he made his presence known by getting in Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski’s face repeatedly. McGrone has good speed and explosiveness. He seems to have surpassed Devin Gil and Jordan Anthony on the depth chart at both MIKE and WILL linebacker. McGrone might be developing into that rotational #3 linebacker that this defensive staff likes to use.
Michigan took over this game late. As evidenced by some Hassan Haskins chunk runs late in the game, the Wolverines wore out Rutgers late. The Scarlet Knights didn’t have much defensive juice to begin, and the well was dry by the fourth quarter. Still, the offensive line didn’t dominate the line of scrimmage like they should have. The top three backs – Zach Charbonnet, Christian Turner, and Tru Wilson – averaged just 4.4, 4.4, and 3.3 yards per carry, respectively. The line only allowed 1 sack and Patterson wasn’t running around like a chicken with his head cut off, but I hoped for more in the running game.
Kwity Paye had a heck of a game. Paye made 6 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. His combination of speed and power made things tough for Rutgers. Michigan needs some defensive linemen to step up, and it doesn’t look like that leap is going to come from any of the defensive tackles, such as Carlo Kemp, Michael Dwumfour, and Donovan Jeter. The ends – particularly the guys who can swing inside – are going to have to step up for the rest of the year and be versatile. Speaking of Jeter, man, I’m disappointed even in that guy’s stance. He needed to step up this year, and he doesn’t even look playable against the big boys by week four.
Next week will be tough. Iowa comes to Ann Arbor next week, and the Hawkeyes are 4-0. Michigan’s 52-0 win was better than Iowa’s 30-0 romp over Rutgers, but Iowa beat Middle Tennessee by a larger margin (48-3 compared to 40-21). It should be a good game.
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