A Work In Progress

Breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly from Michigan's 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State

Before we dive into anything else, let me preface this recap by saying this is exactly why you schedule Middle Tennessee State at home instead of Notre Dame on the road for your season opening game. 1-0...even an unsatisfying 1-0 will always beat 0-1. Michigan, a heavy favorite, did what they had to do to get the win against an upstart Conference-USA opponent.

Games like this can be frustrating. Clearly the team was not happy with how this game went...nor were the fans. Yes, nice to get the win, but this was not a satisfying opener by any stretch. Typical opening game miscues kept this one closer than it should've been. This felt every bit like a first game with a first-year OC and a completely new offense. There were flashes of what this offense could be...there were some really well-executed RPO's that worked flawlessly. But at times, this felt very much like a new system still working through some things.

I'm not going to pound my fist on the keyboard and make grand assumptions about how 2019 is going to go. It's an opener folks. Things happen. And Gattis is going to take some time to settle in. Most team's biggest improvement comes between weeks 1 and 2. Let's let that happen before we lite our torches and grab our pitchforks.

This is how this chart should look for opening games.
Clearly Michigan has some real talent at the QB position. Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey both made their cases for the #1 spot, and while I do think ultimately this is Patterson's offense, I do like what McCaffrey brings to the table. The things Shea does well seem to be like things he works hard at...the things Dylan does well seem to come naturally. There's no doubt, as a more complete passer, Shea has the chops. We haven't seen McCaffrey really have to rely on his arm in a non-garbage time situation. And even last night, Dylan seemed more comfortable on the run than dropping back to pass.

While it's only game 1 with new OC Josh Gattis, I do think I was looking for Patterson to take a step forward last night, and I didn't really see it. At Ole Miss, Patterson had 7 games with over 300 yards passing...last year at Michigan he had none with Maryland being his highest output of the season with 282 yards and 3 TDs. Last night Patterson finished with 203 yards and 3 touchdowns. A solid stat line, but not the jump I think many expected. McCaffrey added another 17 yards passing with 42 yards on the ground mainly when he saw action in the 3Q.

But, however this all shakes out, these sets with McCaffrey lined up at receiver are awkward and not working as designed, I'm sure. I hope that ends going forward.

I thought both Turner and Charbonnet looked solid at running back, but I think Charbonnet brings more to the position right now. He's a more complete back, and like I tweeted out last night...I just like him. Take away his long 41-yard run and he was still averaging 7 yards a pop on the ground.

With DPJ out, I thought both Collins and Black looked really good and will be regular weapons that teams will have a tough time dealing with this year. Ronnie Bell had some bad drops, but also drew some pass interference calls...but I think if he can fix some of those things he can add some nice depth to one of Michigan's strongest position groups.

Defensively, lots of new faces out there. While I don't think we'll see another LB like Devin Bush for a long time, I do think this defense is ultimately faster all-around then they were last year. They're very athletic. I don't see Michigan's defense really taking much of a step backwards this season. Both MTSU first half scores came off of turnovers and the ensuing short field. Can't really pin all of the blame on the defense there. They just need to work out some of the kinks, but that's what games like this are all about. I really see this unit getting better as the season goes on.

I didn't notice last night and I'll have to go back to during my rewatch, but I don't think we saw any zone coverage.

Michigan won. 

Really that's the best thing that happened. No major injuries. You hope that some of those first game issues were worked out...but at the end of the day, you just want to get the win and move forward.

I thought special teams looked really solid for an opener. Will Hart was awesome, pinning MTSU within their own 5 yardline on his first two punts. He may be the best punter in the Big Ten. Jake Moody made both of his two field goal tries from 34 and 27 yards out...and his kickoffs were solid as well.

It will be nice to get DPJ back on punt returns. I doubt we see Lavert Hill back there again after his muffed fair catch that led to 7 MTSU points.

Really it was just typical first game stuff. MTSU was not a pushover either. Their defense was solid. And I thought Asher O'Hara was a very good QB, at least very good getting out of trouble with his legs. Add in the fact that Michigan is working through a whole new offense and you have a recipe for frustration. And there was plenty of that last night. Dropped balls, turnovers, missed handoffs, just an overall sense that Michigan couldn't shift into that next gear offensively.

Another gripe I had, around the 10-minute mark in the 4Q, Michigan was driving with McCaffrey and had a 4th and 1 at the goal line where Charbonnet got stuffed up the middle. That's a situation last year where Ben Mason comes in and punches it in. Mason, now on the defensive line, was sorely missed here. Michigan needs a "Hammering Panda" type player for goal line situations. That's been a hallmark of Harbaugh's offenses at Michigan and one that I wouldn't mind Gattis bringing back.

Okay, let's talk about the end of the 2Q. 

I know it's a first game, and a mid-major opponent, but this sequence was unsettling. Michigan is driving late in the half, looking to punch it in. With about 20 second left and two timeouts remaining, on first and 10, Patterson spikes the ball at the 14 yardline. Why not just take a timeout? 20 seconds is more than enough time to take 3 shots at the endzone from there...and you won't need two timeouts if those passes reach the endzone.

So instead, on 2nd and 10, Patterson scrambles out of bounds at the 9, stopping the clock at 13 seconds. On 3rd and 5, Patterson throws incomplete into the endzone to Mike Sainristil stopping the clock at 8 seconds. More than enough time for another shot...but now it's 4th down, so Moody comes in to kick.

Just a bad game management sequence that you can get away with vs MTSU, but Michigan has to iron stuff like this out moving forward.

A slightly, uncomfortably, lesser HTTV

Uniform notes
Michigan's helmets are different. Actually, I should say the wings are different. The design has been altered a bit to have the shape of the wings point up slightly at the ends. And if I'm not mistaken, the stripes are closer together as well. Maybe to make more room for helmet stickers? This is a throwback look that I'm certain @MVictors will address further soon.

New Patches

I'm not a fan of these 150 patch on the uniform. I know most if not all NCAA schools are doing this, but it's a big clash with the polished clean look of Michigan's home uniform.

Michigan is a school that does this now
These signs will be a constant source of amusement.

Program cover controversy?

I'm not going to read too far into this, but I thought it was an interesting choice to feature both QBs on the official program cover. With how the game went, I think there's more questions now about this position than there are answers.

Shooty Hoops NEW Head Coach Juwan Howard, y'all!

Pretty sunset shot of the night goes to...
Offense: Zach Charbonnet
In undoubtably the most focused-on position battle of the offseason, Charbonnet took a step forward ahead of Christian Turner. No doubt they'll both factor into the running game this season, but I thought Charbonnet just looked the part of a guy ready to be the featured back on this Michigan offense.

Defense: Ambry Thomas
So awesome to see Ambry out there on the field last night, not just playing, but having maybe his best game as a Wolverine. I think that speaks to his competitiveness and how serious he is about his future at Michigan. No question having him out there helps the depth at cornerback and the secondary as a whole.

Special Teams: Will Hart
Like we said, his first two punts pinned the Blue Raiders inside their own 5 yardline. A good punter is a dangerous weapon and there's no question Hart is every bit as dangerous as any punter in the country.

Honorable mention: Shea Patterson, Tarik Black, Khaleke Hudson, Jordan Glasgow, Josh Ross, Aiden Hutchinson, Vincent Gray, Jake Moody

No comments

Post a Comment