Survive and Advance (Michigan 20, Rutgers 13)

An ugly win is still a win

Photo: Zoey Holmstrom

I didn't write a single word after last year's three overtime win vs Rutgers. I didn't have anything to say. At that point Michigan was 2-3 and nothing about a three overtime win in Piscataway was going to make anyone feel better. Unless you win 78-0, nothing about beating Rutgers is really worth getting all worked up about. And even if it is a total blowout, what does it even really mean? It's just Rutgers.

If you win 78-0, it only means Rutgers is still awful, and whatever inflated stats Michigan's been putting up against inferior opponents so far is only prolonged for another week. But you only win by seven...uh oh. Here come the questions.

Is Rutgers good?

Are we bad?

Why can't we move the ball? 

What's up with the playcalling?

Should we get McCarthy in there?

In the midst of that dreadful second half, when Michigan went three and out four straight times, all of these questions were asked. And rightfully so. Rutgers was outplaying Michigan all of the sudden. They were keeping an exhausted Michigan defense on the field, throwing quick outs, running zone reads and pitch outs, and doing everything they could to keep Michigan off balance. Rutgers had all of the momentum, and Michigan had none.

What we say? Maybe Rutgers is that good. They might be the new Indiana. I really do think this win is going to look much better as the season goes on than it does right now. Schiano is a good coach and he's got them playing as good as they have in a long time. I also think Michigan's struggles in the second half were the combination of a few things. 

  • Michigan is going all-in on being a running team, and of course Rutgers knows that, so they were ready. Trouble for Michigan was, Rutgers is a pretty good run defense, and they're well disciplined in the secondary, so it was tough to ground them down the way they did against their first 3 opponents. 
  • I think holding Michigan to 6 points on two drives late in the 2Q was big. Should've really been 28-3 at halftime. Instead, we got 20-3. Not huge difference, but still enough to keep it close. Momentum swings can be killers...and huge for big underdogs. Was this a trap game? Maybe. I think Michigan felt like they were going to cruise through this game to a comfortable win. When that failed to happen, Uncle Mo crept over to the Rutgers sideline.
  • Folks have speculated McNamara was concussed after the targeting call. Maybe. I dunno, it didn't look that bad. But, he was 8 of 10 before the targeting call in the 2Q, 1 of 6 after. In a game where the running backs aren't getting it done, to just abandon the pass seems a little odd. But then again, you have a 5-star sitting on the bench too.
It's funny how you can be 4 games into a season and not really know how good or bad a team actually is. I'm not jumping to any conclusions, I think Michigan is a much improved team, but because the offensive consistency isn't there yet, it's tough to really gauge this team right now. It seems to me the non-conference schedule was nice for Michigan to gain some confidence and establish a few things, but it's all fun and games until Big Ten season starts and you head out on the road. That's really the true test, and Michigan gets a good one heading up to Madison this week.

Defensively, man, they stepped up when they had to...and did so without Josh Ross, which speaks a lot about the depth they have. It was rough out there in the 2nd half all around, and the defense was out there for most of it. Say what you want, this was a good game for the Michigan defense all things considered. And when they had to make the play at the end of the game, David Ojabo forced Rutgers to turn the ball over for the first time all season, which sealed the win for the home team.

So, here we are...4-0. Considering how everyone outside of Alabama and maybe Georgia looks vulnerable in some way, sometimes all that matters is to just win. What can I say, it's gonna be ugly sometimes. But it's always better to win ugly than lose.

Survive and advance. On to Wisconsin.

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