Michigan Monday

Michigan Monday: Bury, Indiana

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (6-0, 3-0) went to Bloomington on Saturday and stifled, muffled, stuffled, and mifled the Indiana Hoosiers 31-10, scoring the final 21 points of the game thanks to a dominating defense and enough offense to get the job done.

The game was tied 10-10 at the half, but then came the second half, which is where Dad decided he was done toying with Indiana and he needed to end things because he was meeting his buddies at the Moose Lodge for a hog roast in an hour.

The Wolverines outscored Indiana 21-0 in the second half. The Hoosiers had just 28 plays over the final two quarters and managed just 53 yards of total offense. The fourth quarter saw them snap the ball 12 times on offense for just 12 yards. In terms of closing games out, they Mariano Rivera’d the Hoosiers with 15 minutes of nasty cutters.

Michigan got a win on the road, and those will always be celebrated.

There was a scary moment in the first quarter when Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart collapsed and had to be taken to a hospital. That situation no doubt shook the Michigan offense, especially tailbacks Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

When Michigan Was On Offense

Quarterback JJ McCarthy completed 28-of-36 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. It was the 11th 300-yard game for a Michigan quarterback under Jim Harbaugh’s watch (CJ Stroud has 12). Possibly coincidentally, four of those 11 games took place in Bloomington.

The Wolverines were riding a 4-game losing streak when having a quarterback throw for 300 yards. That’s a pretty good indicator of Michigan simply throwing the ball more than normal because they were behind. Now they’re actually able to throw the ball more because they want to.

It’s a plan that’s just crazy enough to work.

By the way, the last time the Wolverines threw for 300 yards in a win was three years ago at Indiana.

Michigan rushed for 165 yards on 40 attempts. They were led by Blake Corum, who posted 124 yards rushing on 25 carries. He opened the game with a 50-yard burst down to the 1-yard line. He juked two defenders waiting for him at the line of scrimmage and left them behind like a box of cats on a country road. Donovan Edwards managed just 15 yards on seven attempts. McCarthy was actually the second-leading rusher with 26 yards on four attempts.

The downfield passing game is still a work in progress, and this was against an Indiana defense that has given up more big plays through the air than all but two other Big Ten teams.

McCarthy only took one deep shot and overthrew it.

Ronnie Bell caught 11 passes for 121 yards, Cornelius Johnson went for 58 yards on four catches, including a 29-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Tight end Luke Schoonmaker continues to be a security blanket with nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Slot receiver AJ Henning was targeted three times and caught just one pass. This has been an ongoing problem for Henning’s career. He can do stuff with the ball in his hands, but Michigan just has trouble putting it there.

If you remove the yards after catch, Michigan averaged 6.6 yards per reception. That gives you an idea of how far down the field McCarthy was going. That being said, he can be very accurate on the move with intermediate throws. He is dangerous on the run and is able to pick up first downs on third and long.

McCarthy keeps drives alive, but every now and again there will be a pass that tries to kill it. He threw an interception in the end zone by forcing a pass into a covered receiver. The pass was tipped in the air and intercepted, ending a scoring drive in the third quarter of a 17-10 game.

McCarthy nearly threw another interception that went through a defender’s hands and into Ronnie Bell’s chest for a catch.

Right tackle Trente Jones went down after having his leg rolled up. He left the game. Jim Harbaugh said after the game that it may be a high-ankle sprain.

Overall, the Wolverines posted 469 yards of total offense, which was their second-highest total of the year. They only averaged 6.2 yards per play, however, which was their second-worst performance of the year.

There were some concerning tendencies, however.

Watching the replay of the game, FOX’s color commentator Joel Klatt mentioned a tell that Michigan has when they have motion. I don’t know how true that is, but it did make me want to chart some stuff, and I was reminded of Ohio State’s tendency to run the ball almost every time they were lined up in the pistol last year. So I decided to chart Michigan in the pistol. Then I broadened that to every snap that wasn’t under center.

Of the 11 snaps that I charted in the Pistol, all 11 were runs. More telling than that, of the 30 times that the Wolverines lined up in the shotgun with the running back’s depth even with the quarterback, Michigan threw the ball on 29 occasions. The lone running play saw the Wolverines backed up to the own 1-yard line.

Of the 17 snaps in shotgun where the running back is lined up off to the side and a step or so behind the quarterback, Michigan ran the ball 14 times. And the only three times they threw from that formation, the running back was to the right of the QB, keeping the ball visible to the defense the entire time.

So these are some pretty telling tendencies, but what exactly are they telling? Are they screaming that Michigan has a problem, or is this Jim Harbaugh simply trying to catch Penn State in tendency-breaking hell next week?

For as much as coaches bitch about how hard it is to win games, you wouldn’t think they’d be putting this much effort into beating Penn State a week prior to the game. And if Michigan is as good as they think they are, why would they essentially need to two weeks to defeat the Nittany Lions?

They may be changing up the blocking and the routes within those formations, but if a defense knows when a pass or run is coming, half of the multiple choice answers were just eliminated.

Even Brian Ferentz thinks it’s a bit lazy.

When Michigan Was On Defense

Michigan held Indiana to 19 yards rushing on 25 attempts, which is even worse than it sounds. The Hoosiers lost 61 yards on seven sacks, but even removing the sacks just gives Indiana 84 yards rushing on 18 attempts.

Hoosier running back Jaylin Lucas had a 39-yard run. He finished with 45 yards rushing on four attempts, which tells the rest of the story.

Quarterback Connor Bazelak completed 25-of-49 passes for 203 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The interception belonged to safety Rod Moore after a miscommunication by Bazelak and a receiver. It also came one play after Bazelak nearly threw an interception to defensive end Eyabi Okie, who dropped back into coverage.

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The Wolverine had seven sacks by seven different players. Five of those belonged to the defensive ends and outside linebackers, which is good to see.

Interestingly, Jaylen Harrell gave Michigan’s DEs/OLBs just their second sack of the season in a non-obvious passing situation (i.e. first or second down; not trailing by a thousand points in the second half; not at the end of a half when trying to score).

The Wolverines have 22 sacks this season. Six of those have been via the blitz. Of the 16 sacks by the defensive line, 11 have been on third-and-long or fourth down.

I don’t know if the lack of sacks on first and second down (just five) by the Michigan defensive line (incl. OLBs) is a real issue or not. All pass rushers are better when they know a pass is coming, so the numbers should be higher in and-long situations. It does make me wonder how good the pass rush is if they’re basically only getting to the quarterback on obvious passing downs.

I would need to a do a ton of charting of what actually happens on first and second down before passing any definitive judgments about the pass rush, but it’s an interesting note if nothing else. (And it may actually be nothing else.)

That all being said, defensive end Mike Morris continues to be a problem for offensive lines. Outside linebacker Jaylen Harrell was also effective in this one. Transfer portal pass rusher Eyabi Okie has two or three moments every game that make you think he’s going to be a problem in late November.

There was at least one time when Michigan lined Okie and Morris up next to each other, which proved successful. Expect to see more of that as the season goes.

Even true freshman pass rusher Derrick Moore got in on the action, hurrying Bazelak on one play and then sacking him the next. Speaking of true freshman, defensive tackle Mason Graham is getting better and better. There was a bunch of positive talk about him in fall camp and he shows something each week. He is the only other defensive lineman with a sack in a non-obvious passing situation (NOPS) this year, by the way.

This may have been cornerback DJ Turner’s worst game as a Wolverine. He was flagged for a couple of pass interference penalties, including one where he continued to push a receiver out of bounds while being watched by a referee. He also missed a tackle in a one-on-one situation that could have been worse than it was. I can’t fault him too much, however, because he was probably a little surprised when Bazelak was actually able to get a pass off.

Tempo is still giving Michigan problems and I’m still wondering how they’re going to handle Ohio State’s running game with just two linebackers. Especially when those linebackers can get lost at the line of scrimmage.

The Michigan safeties are still trying to figure things out as Makari Paige has seemingly replaced RJ Moten in the base defense. At least for this week.

The Michigan Special Teams

AJ Henning had a 35-yard punt return. He already has one touchdown this season and I’ve been saying all season long that it won’t be his last.

Place-kicker Jake Moody was 1-of-2 on field goal attempts. He made from 44 and had a 26-yarder blocked due to a protection breakdown. The Wolverines also blocked a 24-yard field goal attempt in this one. It was Michigan’s first block of a placement this year.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that Jim Harbaugh might be the one Nigerian prince who is finally telling the truth.

Michigan’s offensive tendencies might be a problem. Or it might be a well-designed confidence scheme. Harbaugh has basically left a giant bag in the Wolverines’ parking lot that says “FREE MONEY,” but we don’t yet know if it’s a scam or there is actual money in the bag.

James Franklin will get to find out this week and either be duped by it, or succeed because of it and become overly confident in Penn State’s place in the world.

If Michigan is once again telegraphing plays like they did this week, the Nittany Lion defense will be able to make the Wolverines pay for it.

But I just can’t see Michigan being so egregious this time around. Last week was like taking a final and just filling in the Cs for all the answers. Sure, you’ll end up getting enough questions correct to pass a test at IU, but that won’t cut it at an elite East Coast university. And it probably won’t cut it at Penn State either.

It also means that Michigan is now halfway through the regular season and the best rushing offense they’ve faced belongs to Connecticut (40th overall), and the best passing offense they’ve faced is Maryland.

And it’s not going to get much more difficult than that until Ohio State.

Everything has been setting up for Michigan to roll into Columbus with an 11-0 record and enough confidence to convince themselves they’re going to win.

At this point, however, they have seen nothing near what they will see from the Buckeyes. Not in the running game, and damn sure not in the passing game.

But the exact same can be said for Ohio State to this point.

The OSU defense looks good, but it should against this schedule. The best offense the Buckeyes have faced has either fired their coach or is wishing they could.

There is still a long way to go for both teams. What we saw this week is that the Wolverines took Indiana’s predictability and turned it against them.

The Hoosiers just weren’t able to do the same.

The Road To The Game

Sept 3 — Michigan 51 – Colorado State 7
Sept 10 — Michigan 56 – Hawai’i 10
Sept 17 — Michigan 59 – Connecticut 0
Sept 24 — Michigan 34 – Maryland 27
Oct 1 — Michigan 27 – Iowa 14
Oct 8 — Michigan 31 – Indiana 10
Oct 15 — Penn State
Oct 29 — Michigan State
Nov 5 — at Rutgers (Rivalry Game)
Nov 12 — Nebraska
Nov 19 — Illinois
Nov 26 — at Ohio State

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