Well, that was an unexpected nail-biter. I was spot on with my prediction of Rutgers scoring 13 points, but I thought Michigan would have a bit easier time on offense (I predicted 34 points). For two years in a row, Michigan has beaten Rutgers by just one score (they won 48-42 in triple overtime in 2020), and it’s frustrating to an extent that the Wolverines can’t play better despite being significantly more talented, especially on offense. Rutgers has mediocre players on the offensive line, at quarterback, and at tight end, yet they manage to scheme their way to a modicum of success. But a win is a win. We’ve seen these games turn into losses, so I’ll take it for now.
This is the expectation. It’s nice to see that Michigan met expectations for once. This kind of beatdown is what Michigan should do on a pretty regular basis against overmatched MAC-level opponents. We’ve seen losses (2008 Toledo), close wins (2014 Akron), and other mild scares against the MAC, as well as a bunch of dominant victories. But Michigan should never really be within arm’s reach of a MAC opponent. The line should be too big, the skill guys should be too fast, and the coaches should be too smart.
Run, run, and run again. Michigan fans on Twitter were getting pretty grumpy about running the ball, but I don’t have a problem with it.* It turns out that despite the rumored good defense that Washington was bringing to Ann Arbor, they couldn’t fit the run properly. Michigan ran 56 times for 343 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t provide a ton of gaping holes, but they provided enough room for slippery backs like Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins to make hay. The last time Michigan ran for more yards was in the rain during the 2017 game against Minnesota, when Chris Evans and Karan Higdon ran wild to the tune of 370 rushing yards. You do what you have to do to win the game, and Michigan was obviously destroying the Huskies with the run.
*Except I do have a problem with it. I know I lied above. And I apologize. I don’t have a problem with running the ball like mad when it’s an attempt to win an individual game, but it’s going to be very hard to recruit good receivers on the edge if you don’t throw the ball. Josh Gattis came in with the “speed in space” mantra and that borrowed some time for the Wolverines, but now they’re reverting to the Jim Harbaugh days of yore. If I’m a good wide receiver, I have zero interest in playing for Michigan. Michigan wide receivers caught just three (3!!!) balls on Saturday night in a comfortable, three-touchdown win. The leading receiver was Blake Corum with 3 catches himself for just 11 yards.
Cade McNamara > Joe Milton. Redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara had a game that Joe Milton could only dream of, and that included completing 9/11 passes for 136 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. It doesn’t matter if you can throw a ball 80 yards if you don’t know where the ball is going. McNamara has the ability to recognize matchups and read defenses, and those skills trump Howitzers for arms. His best two passes of the day were beautiful deep balls to . . .
Ronnie Bell. Bell made a great one-handed catch on the sideline (nullified by a very questionable offensive pass interference call) and a great 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown. That at the end of an exciting 31-yard punt return, he seemed to slump to the ground when getting tackled and was swarmed by medical personnel. When he left the field, he had to be carried and his right leg was just dangling. My fear is that he tore his ACL while making a cut at the end of the run. Bell is a captain, led the team in receiving the past two years, and was bound to lead the team in that category once again in 2021. After losing Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye, and Jalen Mayfield to injury in 2020, it’s frustrating that Michigan couldn’t avoid a serious injury even one game into the season against a MAC opponent.
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Name: Cade McNamara Height: 6’1″ Weight: 212 lbs. High school: Reno (NV) Damonte Ranch Position: Quarterback Class: Redshirt sophomore Jersey number: #12 Last year: I ranked McNamara #65 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He completed 43/71 passes for 425 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions; he also ran for 1 touchdown. TTB Rating: 65
My, what a ride it’s been in just a couple seasons for Cade McNamara. Thought by many to be a down-the-road option at quarterback for a team that had Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey, and Joe Milton when he committed, that road got a lot shorter in a hurry. Patterson graduated and moved on, McCaffrey transferred to Northern Colorado, and suddenly McNamara was the primary backup to newly anointed starter Joe Milton in 2020. That situation evolved quickly, as well, with Milton getting injured/playing poorly mid-season, thrusting McNamara into the limelight. McNamara played late against Wisconsin, took over early against Rutgers, started against Penn State, and . . . promptly got hurt.
Milton looked the part of a stud quarterback, but he didn’t play like it with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, McNamara looks like an average dude but didn’t turn over the ball. He commanded the offense better than Milton did in more extended playing time, and McNamara’s decision-making was quicker. One of the main things I look for when evaluating quarterbacks is how quickly they make decisions at the line of scrimmage and progress through their reads. That was an area where Milton struggled, but McNamara does well in that phase, despite his lack of elite physical talents.
This off-season McNamara has had to fend off 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy, who reportedly struggled a little bit in the spring but has turned it on during fall camp. The coaching staff has been steadfast that McNamara is the guy, even though McCarthy will play. Michigan also has former Texas Tech starter Alan Bowman and redshirt freshman Dan Villari on the roster. It will be interesting to see whether McNamara entrenches himself as the starter or if McCarthy pops up if McNamara struggles. It would be great if Michigan can put the brakes on the revolving door at quarterback and keep players at the position for a few years. I’m expecting McNamara to have an efficient 2021 season. Michigan should be able to run the ball to keep pressure off of him, and he has some talented targets at wideout and tight end.