Let 'em Hang

No. You can't force me to talk about the offense.

Photo: James Coller
So...on Saturday Michigan beat a higher ranked Iowa team and covered the spread. What else do you want from them?

More. You want more.

We all want more.

And I get it. Because while, yes, Michigan did beat a higher ranked opponent and covered the spread...it didn't feel very satisfying.

I mean on one hand, you have a defense that just two weeks ago was gashed for 359 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns in a one-sided slaughtering up in Madison. To go from that, to allowing no touchdowns for a second week in a row and only 1 yard rushing versus the 29th ranked rushing offense in the country is nothing short of miraculous. I mean seriously...that's a pretty incredible improvement.

Jim Harbaugh called Saturday's defensive performance "a masterpiece". And he's right. What made it so is the dramatic turnaround from what we all saw against the Badgers in that terrible 35-14 defeat. Iowa was completely shut down in all phases aside from a few frustrating 3rd and long conversions. Thanks to some of those drive extending plays, Iowa crossed the Michigan 40 yardline 6 times and only came away with 3 points.

What I hope doesn't get lost in whatever else is about to come later this season is just how good the defense is right now. Despite all of the offensive hand-wringing, this was a big win. And the defense can and should take 99.9% of the credit.

Now, unfortunately, the defense is only one half of the equation. When Michigan has the ball...for the 4th time in 5 games, they've appeared frustratingly lost. And despite their 4-1 record, Michigan is far from passing the eye test.

I don't understand what this offense is. I don't know what they're good at. I don't know what they're trying to be good at. I don't know what #speedinspace is, or what it's supposed to be, but I do know that I'm tired of hearing about it.

At times it seems like things are clicking...but then something bad happens, like a turnover, and things fall apart to the point they can't go back together again. I mean things seemed to be going really well right up until Shea Patterson's interception late in the 1Q...from then on this offense was derailed completely.

1Q: 19 plays, 10 points, 101 yards
2Q: 13 plays, 0 points, 58 yards
3Q: 11 plays, 0 points, 33 yards
4Q: 16 plays, 0 points, 75 yards

Michigan lacks any real identity when it comes to their offense. Are they a pass first or run first team? Does anyone know? Does Michigan know? It's not obvious either way. Neither Shea Patterson nor any Michigan running back seems eager to be the catalyst for this offense. None of Michigan's dynamic receivers gets the ball enough to assume that role. No one is stepping up to be the leader. There's no swagger...no MOJO...no juice! It's like there's just 11 guys out there all terrified of making a mistake.

The Fab 5 used to have a saying when they'd huddle up together before a game. "Let your nuts hang". That's what this Michigan offense needs to do. Stop worrying about screwing up and just play the game. My god they've got the talent. Shea Patterson is a senior QB with a ton of starting experience and he's surrounded by playmakers...and he just doesn't seem to get it. It's not clicking for him...at all. He played great versus Rutgers...but so does everyone else. Versus teams with a pulse, he's struggled. I don't know if McCaffrey or Milton are the answer, but I also don't know how much longer Michigan can afford to wait for Patterson to figure it out.

Spoiler alert: Not long. Michigan will beat Illinois this week no matter who the quarterback is. But after that, it's game on. And unless there's a wholesale change on the offense, it's going to be bad times for the Wolverines the rest of the way.

If I put anything other than the defense here, you'd think I'd have lost my mind. And you'd be right. My GOD they looked good. I mean real good. Mid-2018 good. Championship caliber good. Where do I start? Kwity Paye played another outstanding game. Khaleke Hudson, Jordon Glasgow, Josh Metellus, Cam McGrone, Aidan Hutchinson, Michael Danna, Michael Dwumfour...all of them (and more) had just an outstanding day.

Michigan, as a team, was averaging 1.75 sacks and 4 tackles for loss per game going into the Iowa game. That ranked them nationally at 92nd and 120th respectively...a far cry from the stout defense of a year ago. On Saturday they tallied 8 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Not only that, they also picked off Nate Stanley thrice (his first INTs of the season, btw), had 6 QB hurries, 4 pass breakups and 1 forced fumble.

All in all, a banner day for a defense that just two weeks ago had everyone questioning whether it would ever return. Safe to say, Don Brown got these guys coached up and prepared for an offense similar enough to Wisconsin's to be an adequate barometer of measurable improvement.

Offensive consistency is the key to Michigan's struggles. The running game is not good enough to open up a consistent passing attack, and the passing attack is not good enough to open up a consistent running game. It's a vicious cycle that has seemingly no end in sight.

Michigan needs a leader on offense. They need a consistent source of play-making ability. Ideally you'd like that to be the quarterback. But Shea Patterson has yet to show he can provide that level of output. But he's not alone out there. Zach Charbonnet is Michigan's leading rusher though 5 games, but ranks 16thin the Big Ten in rushing yards per game...not where you'd like to see you leading rusher ranked if you're Michigan. As a team, Michigan is 11th in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game...so the running back by committee thing isn't really boding well either.

With 1:29 left in the 2Q, Michigan got a huge INT from Lavert Hill that killed Iowa's drive that seemed to be destined for at least 3 points before the half. Now I get that Michigan took over on their own 5 yardline...but isn't this sort of a perfect opportunity (with all 3 timeouts) to run your 2-minute offense?

Michigan had zero interest in doing anything with this possession. But it was an odd sequence of plays that ultimately led to them being in a position to attempt a 58-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin. Funny thing is, he actually made it on the first attempt when Iowa called a timeout...which was interesting because Iowa called their timeout well before everyone was set, but Nordin wanted to kick it anyway. The ref even tried to stop him.

So of course on the second try, he missed it just right.

But I think it just speaks to just how broken this offense is that no one seemed interested in trying to get points with 1:29 left in the half and all 3 timeouts.

Post game Hoover Street Rag:
A win is a win. Which is something you say when your team wins ugly. But Michigan really needed this win, which, of course, will be immediately devalued by the national press because of how bad Iowa looked, and Iowa was overrated because who had Iowa played really? It's going to happen because it's what always happens. But things need to get fixed this week on the offensive side. Figure something out, because you can't keep telling the defense it's all on them week in, week out.
Post game UMTailgate:
Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Shea is a mental mess, Jim is either completely delusional or press-conference-pathological. Shea surrenders the pocket collapse long before it actually does. Reads are rushed, passes are bad. He’s got no confidence in the OL, which I get because it’s not that good, but there are some opportunities in there. They hold the pocket long enough, some of the time. And it’s those times where it’s just absolutely criminal that the ball doesn’t end up in the air in the area of one of the many elite receivers just running around back there ready to out maneuver, out jump, out body any member of the defensive backfield. The consensus best QB in the B1G going into the season is floating around the bottom. He is the #11 rated passer in the conference. And only 3 QBs have fewer touchdowns. I don’t know how you fix this.
Woodson. Here's the defensive GOAT shooting a t-shirt cannon in the 1Q

Flyover. The B-52 flyover was a nice change of pace from the usual fighter jets we normally see. It's not every day you see a 60+ year old Stratofortress flying over your head.
Offense: Zach Charbonnet
I wasn't sure there should be a game ball for anyone this week but Charbonnet gets the nod thanks to his first quarter touchdown that ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. But 3.2 yards per carry isn't going to win games against Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Indiana or Ohio State.

Defense: Kwity Paye
He didn't lead the team in tackles, but he was disruptive all game long, especially in the Iowa backfield where he tallied 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. He accounted for 2 of Michigan 4 QB hurries.

Special Teams: Will Hart
Maybe not his best day punting the ball, but certainly his busiest. None of his 8 punts landed inside the 20, but numerous times Will was able to corral some low punt snaps and get them off without a hitch. Michigan fans know know all too well how clutch that can be late in a close game.

More MBN Iowa coverage: Preview, STAT-O, Game Photos

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