This was bad. I want to get this out of the way first. I don’t like it when people say “This is inexcusable!” I will totally forgive Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown if they beat Ohio State. But you can’t just lay an egg against a rival – a terrible rival with a first-year coach who just lost to Rutgers – and walk away largely unscathed. This is probably the worst loss of Jim Harbaugh’s career, even though perhaps the 2015 loss was more heartbreaking, considering it took place with :00 seconds left on the clock. At least you could see this one coming.
Hit the jump for more.
That elephant . . . it’s still in the room. Joe Milton also looked bad. He is playing how one would expect a freshman to play. (Note: He is a redshirt sophomore.) On the face of it, going 32/51 for 300 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions doesn’t look terrible. And I’ve seen worse. But Milton can’t read a defense. He’s locking on to one receiver, and he’s throwing it to That Guy, regardless of what the defense does. Michigan State did exactly what I would have done (from a base standpoint; I don’t want to give myself too much credit from a scheme perspect): They loaded the box, took away the run, and dared Milton to beat them. He didn’t, because he couldn’t. I am going to pat myself on the back for this one, because he did exactly what my analysis of him from the past two seasons suggested he would:
- He lacked touch
- He got happy feet despite clean pockets
- He tried to force the ball to well covered receivers
I will try to get into this more later if I have time, but if you disagree with me . . . you weren’t listening to Joel Klatt or Urban Meyer or any other talking head who analyzed the game, either.
The cornerbacks got cooked. Never in my life have I seen such terrible cornerback play at Michigan as we saw on Saturday, and that includes the Rich Rodriguez years and any blowout loss to Ohio State. Freshman Ricky White had 8 catches for 196 yards and 1 touchdown. (Against Rutgers White had 1 catch for 5 yards.) Jalen Nailor had 2 catches for 68 yards. (Against Rutgers it took him 6 catches to get to 84 yards.) Gemon Green has the physical tools to be successful at Michigan – length, speed, toughness – but he’s not playing with good technique right now. Vincent Gray, meanwhile . . . this might be an overreaction, but I’m worried about his future. He’s slow, did not play with good technique, and just went through probably the worst game in his life. Aside from the lack of physical tools, he might have a hard time overcoming this game from a mental standpoint. It was gross.
Bipolar Josh Gattis. Gattis went from calling perhaps the best game of his life against Minnesota to calling an atrocious one against Michigan State. Your QB throws the ball 51 times and scores 0 touchdowns? You march the ball down the field on your best drive with Milton getting in rhythm, and then call a Wildcat jump pass from Hassan Haskins to walk-on tight end Carter Selzer? You run into stacked boxes repeatedly when the offensive line isn’t getting much movement? You largely eschew the designed run game for the QB?
Erick All isn’t the answer. I got one thing right: I predicted that Michigan would get the ball to Giles Jackson more, and he led the team in receptions (7) while finishing second in yards (58). Roman Wilson had 5 receptions for 71 yards. But this team is really missing Nico Collins. Joe Milton is targeting sophomore Erick All way too often, and all he’s done so far is catch an arrow route in the flat against Minnesota and run for a chunk of yards. Otherwise, he has at least 3 drops in two games, and his total against Michigan State was 3 catches for 13 yards (4.3 yards/catch). I tweeted during the game that Michigan needed to put All on the bench so Milton might look at someone who’s open. Obviously, Milton and All have some sort of blood brother relationship going on. Look, I was in love with Jennifer Love Hewitt at one point, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get a wandering eye for Shannon Elizabeth.
Where’s the pass rush? People in the media keep saying Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye are potential All-Americans. Rocky Lombardi attempted 32 passes, got sacked 0 times, and was hurried twice.
Linebacker depth is a problem. I felt like I kind of beat this to death in the off-season and during the countdown, but Michigan’s depth at linebacker is whittled down to almost nothing. A few linebackers went out injured on Saturday, including middle linebacker Cam McGrone, who was replaced by walk-on Adam Shibley. Good for Shibley, whose high school film I liked a few years ago, but Michigan has lost a ton of linebackers over the past couple seasons, including Rutgers starter Drew Singleton and a guy who doesn’t appear to be playing anywhere this season, Jordan Anthony. Ben VanSumeren got dinged up, and so did Michael Barrett for a time. The only starting linebacker (counting the SAM) to last the entire game was Joshua Ross. The backups are freshmen, walk-ons, and sophomore Anthony Solomon. This is not a good situation.
Onside kick frippery. That onside kick crap at the end was atrocious. First, it looked like Michigan had no idea what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong. I know they purposefully delayed, because they were looking to the sideline for exactly which version of an onside kick they were going to execute. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the communication and execution were terrible. And on top of that, the mere idea of using the dribble kick with kicker Quinn Nordin being the retriever is idiotic in that situation. The dribble kick wasn’t open, and Nordin is surely not the fastest guy you could put there to cover enough ground to retrieve that kick. That was terrible all around.
What does it all mean? I said this at the time, but Minnesota didn’t look good. They lack team speed – especially on defense – and their offense is pretty predictable. Maryland put up 45 points on them, and the Gophers are 0-2. Joe Milton is not a good quarterback right now, and Michigan’s defensive backfield is in shambles. I actually like MSU’s receiving corps, so I don’t think it’s terrible that their receivers would give Michigan a hard time. The more concerning thing is that Rocky Lombardi sucks, and he still found a way to get the ball to those receivers. Normally, Michigan defensive backs are close enough- or confident enough – to make plays on the ball, and they’re not doing it.
In today’s game, if you can’t pass effectively . . . and you can’t defend the pass effectively . . . you’re in trouble.
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