This was Shea Patterson’s best game. Patterson has taken a lot of criticism this season, and some people were still clamoring for backup Dylan McCaffrey – or even Joe Milton – to start. I thought this was Patterson’s best game this season by far, and one of his top few performances as a Wolverine overall. His numbers weren’t great (24/41 for 276 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 12 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD), but part of that was due to drops and general refereeing inefficiency. Donovan Peoples-Jones dropped two passes and Ronnie Bell dropped one, and there were a couple pass interference calls that should have been called against Penn State but weren’t, resulting in incompletions. Patterson had one truly bad throw, and that was the interception.
Hit the jump for more.
Speaking of the referees… The referees were terrible. Their interpretations of pass interference were laughably inconsistent. They called offensive pass interference against Michigan, defensive pass interference against Michigan, and…nothing against Penn State in the passing department. I guess the whole white-gloves-against-white-uniforms plan worked out well for their defensive backs.
Is the offensive line good again? Last year we heard that Ed Warinner’s offensive line coaching would really kick in after about six weeks. I didn’t think that would be a thing in 2019, because Warinner had been there for a year already and had four returning starters, with the only new guy being a redshirt freshman right tackle who learned under Warinner last year. The Wolverines ran for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns on 3.44 yards per carry. That yards per carry is the highest of the year, and you can compare it to 2.33 (Iowa), 1.76 (Maryland), and -0.68 (Purdue) for Big Ten framing. Zach Charbonnet had his best college performance, a 15-carry, 81-yard, 2-touchdown performance that resulted in a healthy 5.4 yards per carry.
BLAME RONNIE BELL!!!…for being Michigan’s best receiver. There’s a reason that Ronnie Bell leads the team with 25 catches for 443 yards. It’s because Ronnie Bell is pretty dang good, and Shea Patterson and the coaches trust him. They design plays for him, and he usually comes through. Sure, he had a couple tough drops in the first couple games, and the drop in the end zone that sealed the game against the Nittany Lions wasn’t a great play. He had 5 catches for 82 yards. Michigan wouldn’t have pulled within a touchdown if not for Bell, who had some great yards after the catch to put Michigan in scoring position. He also showed great awareness to grab a pass that bounced off Donovan Peoples-Jones and ran into the endzone for a score, except Cesar Ruiz was illegally downfield, which negated the play.
BUT THROW IT TO A 5-STAR RECEIVER! I’m not saying anything bad about Peoples-Jones, but he dropped two passes in that game, a bubble screen and a leaping grab in the middle of the field that he allowed to be raked out by a defender; on the latter play, he would have come down with it if he had kept two hands on the football. Five-stars aren’t infallible. Nico Collins was double-covered on the play, and Patterson had to scramble before he even had a chance to find Bell. I’m not a mind reader, but I don’t think Patterson was considering the 247 Composite while going through his scramble progression.
Michigan’s safeties are an issue. Josh Metellus has turned into a pretty good player, but he can’t play K.J. Hamler one-on-one in space. This has long been a problem. Don Brown loves to blitz and match up his safeties against slot receivers. It’s not a terrible thing if the slot guys run fades, because safeties can use the sideline for help to either make it a difficult throw or run the guy out of bounds. But if a fast guy runs a post across your safety’s face, really bad things can happen.
That being said, I’m not sure what Brad Hawkins is doing on this play. It’s man coverage, and he’s just hanging out covering no one; on top of that, his right hand appears to be, I dunno, putting in his mouth piece or something. He doesn’t seem to be fully engaged in playing football fundamentally.
It’s not going to be a great season. Michigan has lost two games now, to the two best teams on its schedule through seven games. The team has a chance against good teams if it plays like it did in the second half, but the first quarter was pretty abysmal. Don Brown is generally good at making adjustments, but the reason he has to make adjustments is that Michigan often gets punched in the mouth early and has to recover. There are way more times Michigan’s defense looks good near the end of game instead of looking good early and then fading. Of course, that was one complaint about Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that they looked good early and faded late in games. Was that a conditioning/mental issue or an issue of teams adjusting to Mattison’s defenses? It’s hard to say. But Michigan’s early struggles, offensively and defensively, doomed them later in the game. The Wolverines dominated total yardage, first downs, passing yardage, rushing yardage, and time of possession, but still lost.
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