The Right Time for Rutgers

Need a boost of confidence? Have a Rutger.

Photo: Tyler Carlton
Judging the positive or negative takeaway of a football game always comes back to expectations. For fans, the expectation before the season was for Michigan to come away with a pretty massive and comfortable win against lowly Rutgers. But the expectation was also to do the same against Middle Tennessee State and of course to pull away from Army in the second half. But those two things never happened. After the Wisconsin debacle, no one really knew what to expect yesterday. I think most folks thought a win was a good bet, but how would it feel?

After the pummeling Michigan took in Madison, and all of the negative fallout it caused, Michigan fans approached this game with an apprehension that no one expected to before the season began. In games like this, fans want to come away with a sense that it was never in doubt, and that their team had the clear advantage in every facet. That's what they got yesterday in the Big House.

Okay, first off, it's Rutgers. Thats the caveat you kept hearing yesterday and will read about all day today. Rutgers is a very bad football team.

However, I have to give Michigan some credit...this is how you're supposed to beat awful football teams. You're supposed to score early and often. You're supposed to keep them out of the endzone and use their mistakes against them. And for a team that hasn't covered the spread by an average deficit of 14 points in the previous 6 games, it was nice to double up the spread with a comfy 52-point win.

Yes, I know it's just Rutgers.

But for Michigan, maybe this is what they needed? I mean to get back to where they need to be in order to compete in bigger games against better teams, they need to play well in games like this. They need to find the pieces of the puzzle and start putting it back together. Success leads to more success just as much as failure breads more failure. After the Wisconsin game, it was gut check time, and it still is. But at least Michigan was able to stem the tide of struggles. Iowa will be a much bigger test next week.

The opening drive touchdown was the best moment of the day for two reasons. First, Michigan had an opening drive go for a touchdown, which is always the best way to start a game. But, in this instance, it was the first opening drive this season where the offense didn't fumble. There's no question those fumbles in previous games were as bad for this team on paper as they were mentally.

Another best for me was Rutgers had zero QB hurries in this game...although Shea did get sacked once and I do remember him taking at least a couple of hits after throws. But for an offense and an offensive line that has struggled so much this season, even though it's only Rutgers, to protect the QB as well as they did all day is a big step in the right direction.

Also, I don't know what long-term effect having Gattis on the sidelines will have, but it seemed to help yesterday. From everyone involved, it sounded like this is where he's most comfortable and will coordinating from going forward.

Crossing routes continue to be where teams want to attack Michigan's defense. I mean, sure, Rutgers is never going to gash Michigan the way Ohio State did, but it does speak to the known weakness this defense has. Rutgers really only had that one drive late in the 1Q when they moved the ball pretty well down the field, and that drive featured many shallow crossing routes.

Also, going forward, Michigan must be able to run the ball more effectively and I didn't see anything yesterday that showed me Michigan is going to do that against good teams. As a team, they only tallied 141 yards on 41 carries (3.4 ypc) which, against the 103rd ranked rushing defense is not good enough. The longest run of the day came on a 15-yard carry to open the 4Q by Haskins. I get that Rutgers wanted to stop the run and Michigan was able to make up for it through the air, but this is remains a major concern.

Here's some optimism...
Photo: Tyler Carlton
This didn't have anything to do with the Rutgers game, but it's just too good not to share. I think this pretty much sums up Michigan's fans emotions from 2008-2010.

Offense: Shea Patterson
One of the most encouraging things in this game was the play of Shea Patterson. There's little question this offense will only go as far as Patterson will take them. When he looks settled and as comfortable as he did yesterday, Michigan offense reflects that. This was Shea's 2nd highest yardage game at Michigan with 276 yards passing (he had 282 vs Maryland last year). That plus his bootleg touchdown runs showed just a more confident QB than we saw in the first three games. I think the biggest part of that was how well the offensive line played against a very overmatched Rutgers defensive front

Defense: Kwity Paye
Paye had himself a day! He lived in the Rutgers backfield tallying 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He also added a QB hurry. Its a really good thing to get guys like Paye to be as disruptive as he was yesterday.

Special Teams: Donovan Peoples-Jones
Quiet day on special teams, but thats fine. Nice to have DPJ back returning punts again. He had two punt returns go all the way last its great to have a returning threat again.

More Rutgers coverage from MBN: STAT-OGame photos

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