Michigan Monday

Michigan Monday: McCarthy Accuses Wolverines Of Being Title Contenders

Everything written from this point on is done so under protection of the Hawai’i Caveat Act of 2022 which declares that all following statements have been made with the understanding that one of the teams being discussed is vastly inferior to another and that any conclusions derived herein may be flawed. I have invoked this clause because this year’s edition of the University of Hawai’i football team is the worst team to play a game in Michigan Stadium since the Wolverines played seven games there in 2008.

The Maize and Blue defeated the Rainbow Warriors 56-10 this weekend, but the score doesn’t really tell the entire story of just how much of a mismatch this game was.

I would call it a scrimmage, but you don’t pay UCLA $1.5 million in 2019 to cancel the home-and-home they had scheduled for 2022 and 2023, and then pay Hawai’i $1.9 million to replace them this year for a “scrimmage.”

This wasn’t a scrimmage. This was closer to rich people paying large sums of money to hunt humans.

And next week these sadistic purgers are inviting a group in from Connecticut that thinks they’re coming to Michigan to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

When Michigan Was On Offense

Saturday night was the beginning of the JJ McCarthy Era at Michigan and now the Wolverines may have the biggest difference maker they’ve ever had at quarterback.

McCarthy completed 11 of 12 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns. His one incompletion was a tad bit behind receiver Ronnie Bell, but Bell still got two hands on it and it was a catch that he usually makes.

Michigan’s receivers were running free and McCarthy was generally hitting them in stride. This wasn’t 7-on-7, this was more like 11-on-Zero.

There have been times over the years where I look at how far down the field the Michigan quarterbacks are pushing the ball. That was always one of my criticisms of Cade McNamara. He does not have the arm to get the ball down the field, which he again showed on Saturday with an interception on a ball down the sideline that was underthrown.

A year ago, the Wolverines defeated Washington 31-10 in the second game of the season. The Huskies are obviously a much different opponent than Hawai’i, but in that game last year, McNamara completed 7-of-15 passes for 44 yards. And just one of those passes traveled more than 10 yards downfield.

Saturday night against the Rainbow Warriors, JJ McCarthy completed three passes where the ball traveled at least 30 yards in the air. Of his 12 passes, five went at least 10 yards in the air. His passes went an average of 14.8 yards downfield.

Most quarterbacks would have success against this Hawai’i defense and be able to stretch them vertically, but McCarthy was able to do it on time and in stride. Can he do it when he actually faces a pass rush? Maybe not as accurately, but he’s still going to look deep and take shots, which makes him more dangerous than McNamara for a defense.

McCarthy also ran the ball once for 16 yards. So far this season, he is averaging 16.5 yards per carry and 16.2 yards per pass attempt. Basically, he’s averaging over 16 yards per play every time he receives the snap and doesn’t hand it off to a teammate.

Do you even understand how difficult it is for your incompletions to gain an average of 16 yards?

Five different Wolverine receivers had at least one reception of 30 yards or more. That sounds like a stat a Jim Harbaugh-team has never achieved before but I’m not going to put that out as an actual fact until somebody with more time than me can confirm it.

As mentioned, Ronnie Bell was responsible for the lone incompletion, and we all know what happens when you’re on the wrong side of a McCarthy.

“I’m not saying Ronnie’s a Communist, I’m just saying he’s a Communist sympathizer.”

Bell led the team with six catches for 74 yards, as McCarthy ironically gave according to his ability and Bell received according to his need.

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The Wolverines have a really nice corps of receivers. They’re only going to be more productive moving forward because they now have a quarterback who can get them the ball no matter where they are or where they’re going.

Michigan rushed for 8.1 yards per carry, amassing 268 yards rushing on 33 attempts. Blake Corum led the team with 88 yards on nine attempts. Donovan Edwards only ran the ball three times because you don’t bring out the good china for a game like this.

When Michigan Was On Defense

I hope you’re not expecting some bulbous breakdown of Michigan’s defensive performance against a team that would finish 3-8 with an FCS schedule. This game was collegiate version of the viral video from a couple of weeks ago of the mascots demolishing a Pop Warner team.

I am hopeful that Timmy Chang eventually gets Hawai’i out of the rut that Todd Graham put them in, but it’s going to take a while. And the more I write about this game, the more I feel like I’m picking on a team that worked hard but had no shot. I don’t want to be a bully. Michigan Monday was never meant to be a vehicle of ridicule.*

(*offer not valid in Michigan.)

Hawai’i threw for 113 yards and rushed for 140 yards, which included a 54-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter when Michigan’s first two defensive lines had already been sent home to get some sleep.

If you are looking for some criticism — and I know that you are — only sacking the quarterback once on 37 pass attempts isn’t great.

That being said, Michigan has a number of pass rushers, but I’m interested to see how the rotation slims down once they get into the portion of their schedule that is allowed to ride all the rides.

The Michigan Special Teams

Everything was fine with the Michigan special teams. The Wolverines allowed just one kickoff return on their nine kickoffs and zero punt returns on their four punts.

Receiver AJ Henning is a threat on punt returns and he did have a 35-yarder in this one. It probably should have been a touchdown though.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that Michigan may finally have a quarterback that can’t be held back by Jim Harbaugh.

JJ McCarthy is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the Big Ten and may have the biggest overall arm. Saturday was a great first start. Nearly perfect, actually. This weekend against UConn he’s going to face a better team but still not a good team.

When McCarthy does finally take the field against an opponent that can play defense, he may start out a little slowly just because the speed of the defense will be increased and he’ll have grown accustomed to the Junior Varsity level he’s been playing on so far. The good news for Michigan, however, is that McCarthy has the ability to catch up quickly and then speed by.

It also means that for the first time in a long time, I think this is a Michigan team that can do…something. And I say that realizing last year’s team made the playoffs.

Offensively, they are no longer limited by the quarterback. And prior to last season, they were limited by the QB and the offensive line.

This offense is now simply limited by what the coaches can implement. I’m not saying they can’t be stopped or that they are one of the nation’s best. I’m saying that these guys can do whatever the coaches can come up with, so it’s on the coaches to set their sights high.

Defensively, I’m not sure what they are yet because they haven’t faced an offense good enough to force them to identify themselves.

I do know that there are pieces to like. DJ Turner at cornerback is getting better. Can freshman Will Johnson move into the starting lineup and solidify the spot opposite Turner? The versatility of the safeties and nickels is also a plus, though I want to see how nickel Mike Sainristil does against more talented slot receivers.

Every single member of the secondary would be made much better by a disruptive pass rush. Is there enough consistency there to make that happen? In the opener against Colorado State, the Wolverine defensive line had 3.5 sacks. They had just one sack against Hawai’i (DE Mike Morris).

In reality, the defensive line probably isn’t going to average 3.5 sacks per game, but neither will they generally be held to just one sack per game.

Thus is life when you’re still trying to figure out who and what you are while trying to keep your future opponents from knowing those exact same things about you.

The Road To The Game

Sept 3 — Michigan 51 – Colorado State 7
Sept 10 — Michigan 56 – Hawai’i 10
Sept 17 — Connecticut
Sept 24 — Maryland
Oct 1 — at Iowa
Oct 8 — at Indiana
Oct 15 — Penn State
Oct 29 — Michigan State
Nov 5 — at Rutgers
Nov 12 — Nebraska
Nov 19 — Illinois
Nov 26 — at Ohio State

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