Muscle Memory

In case you hadn't heard, Michigan ran Fitzgerald Toussaint 27 times for 27 yards against Penn State last weekend in Happy Valley. Yes, that's a horrible stat line. And while everyone's been busy focusing on what Michigan wasn't able to do with Fitz – especially on 1st down...what been missed is what the Michigan offense did on 2nd and 3rd down.

Despite Fitz's bad day...and the OL's bad day...and Al Borges's bad day...and Devin's bad half, Michigan put up 34 points in 4 quarters...with 24 points in the 2nd half. Part of that speaks to Penn State's diminished defense, but still, on the road in that environment...

The simple fact is Michigan had their shot to win the football game, and missed, 3 times. Sure, a 1.0 yds/carry for your starting running back is embarrassing, but let's not forget how close this game actually was. Had Gibby knocked one of those kicks, Michigan would be the worst 6-0 team in the history of organized football, but still 6-0. And in today's college football landscape, who cares about style points?

It feels good to be able to run the ball well. At Michigan, there's a legacy of power-running football. A legacy that includes countless dominant offensive linemen and tough running backs like Tyrone Wheatley, Tim Biakabatuka, Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas, and Mike Hart just to name a few. It's a great way to win a football game – to dominate your opponent with long, sustained drives and controlling the time-of-possession. It's the kind of winning that Michigan fans are used to.

But it's not the only way to win a football game.

Like the swallows of Capistrano, Michigan coaches want to return to the glory days of power football. But they can' least not yet. You can't just flip a switch and pretend Rich Rodriguez didn't recruit some pretty good offensive playmakers. And what the coaches fail to realize, is that they don't have to.

They fail to realize that they don't have to focus so hard on second base.

For all of the Monday morning quarterbacks out there who are calling for Hoke and Borges to be fired and Devin and Fitz to be benched, take a step back off the ledge for a minute.

Going back to 1997, Michigan has had four 10-plus-win seasons (1997, 2003, 2006, 2011). The highest average scoring team of that bunch was 2003 at 35.3 points per game. The 2013 squad, for all of their faults, is averaging 39 points/gm through 6 games. 6 games, where the rushing yards/gm, time of possession, 3rd down percentage have all been mediocre, and the turnover ratio is -2. Yet, this team scores more than any other recent Michigan team that I could find.

Plus, of the 4 seasons I just mentioned, all of them boasted pretty darn good defensive units as well. The 2013 squad doesn't quite stack up to those others, but we're only halfway through the season and it would seem the defense could start trending upwards with the return of Jake Ryan and an improved pass rush. They're already a top 10 rush defense.

Look, I get all of the arguments about last Saturday. It was an embarrassing loss in the way that it played out. But all the mistakes aside, it's just a loss. It's cliche to say that Michigan can't let Penn State beat them twice, but I think it's relevant in this scenario. Michigan doesn't have to reinvent the wheel in order to get through the remaining schedule unscathed. All 6 opponents left on the schedule are beatable with the tools Michigan currently has.

Turn the ball over less, manage the game with an offensive strategy that utilizes more spread, and continue to let the defense improve, and I promise you a trip to Indy is a more realistic possibility than it seems.

"Here's whats really interesting. Because, Jeremy is going to do what he never does. He's gonna go for it. He's gonna round first, and he's gonna go for it. Okay?" 

"This is all of Jeremy's nightmares coming to life."

"Aw they're laughing at him."

"And Jeremy's about to find out why. Jeremy's about to realize...that the ball went 60 feet over the fence."

"He hit a home run. And didn't even realize it."

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