Gross. I had practice on Saturday morning and then went to scout an upcoming opponent, so I DVRed the game and planned to watch it late. I purposefully didn’t wear any Michigan gear to scout, because I didn’t want any douchebags coming up to me saying, “Oh, you’re a Michigan fan? It looks like they’re about to win/lose.” I successfully went home without any idea how the game was going, turned on the recording, and promptly figured out within a few minutes that Michigan would lose the game. I waited an extra three hours to start it, and it took me five minutes to know the outcome.
Hit the jump for more.
Michigan is lost. The team has no offensive identity, and their best playmaker is a former Missouri State basketball commit. Their best play? Throw the ball inaccurately to the former Missouri State basketball commit and let him dive for it. There is no speed. There is no space. There is no downhill running game. There is no tempo. Michigan can’t hang its hat on anything.
F*** Ben Mason on offense. I was absolutely livid when Ben Mason even ran on the field to play offense, for two reasons. For one thing, the guy put on a bunch of weight this off-season to play defensive tackle and hasn’t been practicing running back, but in a critical game against one of the top few teams Michigan will play all season, he was put in the game. On the goal line. And handed the ball. Of course it was a fumble. And the second reason is that the team clearly was not prepared for the situation, because Mason didn’t even run onto the field until there were about eight seconds left. As a coach…
…I hate hate HATE disorganization. As a high school team, our elimination day is Wednesday. We install new plays/wrinkles on Monday and Tuesday. We rep them on Wednesday. If they’re not smooth on Wednesday, we trim our playbook. If they’re not smooth on Thursday, we trim it even more. That way on Friday night, we’re only running the things we’re most confident in. If we have a heavy substitution package, everyone knows the name of the package and when it’s going to be used. When we get within the 5-yard line, the heavy package is going in the game. We’re not waiting until there are 15 seconds left on the play clock to send in the package. As soon as the ball is placed inside the 5, we’re yelling for them to go in. Period. Michigan was late getting Mason in the game, then had to call a timeout and lost the element of surprise; then they came out of the timeout, ran the same formation, and everybody knew Mason was getting the ball up the middle.
The lack of running game at Michigan is embarrassing. The all-time leader in NCAA football victories doesn’t have any options in the running game. Freshman 5-star running back Zach Charbonnet had his knee scoped, so he was limited to 3 touches for 5 yards. Walk-on “starter” Tru Wilson hasn’t touched the ball yet this season. Christian Turner had 7 touches for 21 yards. Michigan doesn’t have any reliable options at running back, and the offensive line can’t block for them, anyway. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s running backs are all going for at least 5.2 yards per carry.
Is this 2017 all over again? The 2017 season started with Wilton Speight breaking his back. Then John O’Korn played well before sucking. Then Brandon Peters got destroyed by Wisconsin, and it was back to O’Korn for the rest of the season. This year the parts are jumbled up, but Shea Patterson got dinged up, then Dylan McCaffrey got destroyed by Wisconsin, and the team went back to Patterson. Late in the game, it became Joe Milton’s turn to look unprepared as he threw an interception directly into the chest of a Wisconsin defender.
McCaffrey isn’t the answer. What happened yesterday to Dylan McCaffrey was sad. The most important thing is that he gets healthy, and the referees were right to eject Reggie Pearson for targeting. (Incidentally, Pearson is from River Rouge High School in Michigan, so I wonder if he was playing with an extra bit of juice since he was playing against his home-state Wolverines.) But what happened is also evidence that McCaffrey isn’t the right choice to quarterback this team right now. I’ve been saying that since week one, when the calls for McCaffrey started. McCaffrey is very immature as a player (not as a person). He can’t handle the passing game, and he runs recklessly. He broke his collarbone last year, and this time he hurdled a player in traffic and subsequently took a nasty, illegal hit to the side of the head/neck. You can’t count on a guy like that to be your starter at QB; you give him all the #1 reps during the week, and then you’re going to have to put in your #2 quarterback, anyway. McCaffrey has a lot of tools, but he’s not a good decision maker right now.
What happened to Ed Warinner’s offensive line? Those three veterans on the interior of Michigan’s line are getting confused by cross stunts, and a big chunk of it is center Cesar Ruiz. The guy who’s supposed to be making all of the protection calls can’t handle passing off defenders to his neighbors. Patterson and McCaffrey were getting hit on probably 75% of their dropbacks, if not more.
No speed, no space. I watched Notre Dame play Georgia last night with tight end Cole Kmet making plays (9 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD), and then the rest of their receivers were spread out across the field. They had 321 yards in a tight, one-score game. Michigan had 299 in a blowout loss, much of which yardage came in garbage time. We were promised speed in space, but instead it’s a bunch of 6’4″ receivers and tight ends. There’s nothing lateral. Michigan keeps trying to run RPOs up the middle – which is not a threat – and then throw the ball over the middle – where nobody has bitten on the run. I feel like we’ve seen this somewhere before: without the threat of the run, the RPO/play action game won’t work. There’s jet sweep action without the jet, and there are lightning-in-a-bottle freshmen receivers – Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil, etc. – who are, well, still in the bottle. Jackson has 1 catch this year, and Sainristil has yet to touch the ball even once. He was the “starting” slot receiver in the spring and everyone was raving about him, but he has zero involvement.
Don Brown has to take some blame. We’ve said for a long time that Michigan was likely going to struggle without any big dudes in the middle. I even put Donovan Jeter near the top of the countdown list, because Michigan’s defensive success against teams like Wisconsin was going to depend upon having big bodies in the middle to stop the run. So far Jeter looks out of shape or perhaps unhealthy, and Michigan’s two blue-chip defensive tackles (Mazi Smith, Chris Hinton) are MIA. Instead, the Wolverines are in goal line situations with linebacker Jordan Glasgow playing 3-tech defensive tackle in a two-point stance. Cornerback Lavert Hill is rotating back to play middle of the field safety against two tight end sets, and – surprise, surprise – the skinny cornerback is unprepared to fill the alley against Jonathan Taylor.
It’s bad. This is bad. These are mistakes that I would not make as a high school coach. They’re coming against a plodding team that doesn’t use tempo to screw with your substitutions. And they’re coming after a bye week when the Wolverines had two weeks to prepare for same old Wisconsin. I do not expect Michigan to get better anytime soon, though there is a glimmer of hope in the sense that Warinner’s offensive line got better last year as the season went along, and maybe Josh Gattis will improve since he’s a first-time play caller. This season is likely going to be a slog the rest of the way.
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