Michigan Monday

Michigan Monday: Return Of The Khak

On the internet you can find videos of hydraulic presses smashing various items such as bowling balls, candles, telephones, watermelons, or whatever. You know that any item going into the press is going to get smashed, but it can sometimes be interesting to see what shape the smashing takes.

Michigan has been one of those hydraulic presses this season, but so far nothing has really smashed in an interesting manner.

Everybody knows how Play-Doh is going to smash. It just goes flat. And even though Rutgers was going to be the Wolverines’ biggest test yet, Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano spent most of his time slowly rolling out snakes because Rutgers isn’t the kind of place that spends money on a fancy restaurant playset.

Anyway, Rutgers got put into the press and were flattened 31-7.

The Scarlet Knights scored the first seven points of the game on a bit of a fluke, but then patiently watched as Michigan scored the final 31 points of the game.

This was a matchup between two teams that had no desire to make things last longer than necessary. With Jim Harbaugh finally back on the sidelines after his three-game suspension, you’d think he’d want to make up for lost time. Instead, he seemingly wanted to get back home as quickly as possible.

Who knows, maybe he was used to his new Saturday routine this year and he wanted to get back home. This game was played in two hours and 51 minutes. It was just the third time in a decade that a Michigan game lasted less than three hours.

And it was still about 90 minutes too long.

When Michigan Was On Offense

The Michigan offense only scored 24 points in this game (nickel Mike Sainristil’s pick six was responsible for the other seven points) but they rushed for 201 yards on 5.0 yards per attempt, and threw for another 214 on 15-of-21 passes. They were as efficient as you would expect, and maybe even more so given how effective and disciplined Rutgers has been defensively this season.

Michigan had just seven possessions in this game. They went three-and-out on their first possession, then had drives of 94, 42, 79, 62, 66, and 59 yards. The 42-yard drive ended in a missed field goal, and the 59-yard drive came at the end of the game when the Wolverines held the ball for the final 6:57 of the game.

Everything else ended in points.

Right now this is an offense without any urgency because they don’t need any. Why hurry somewhere when you’ve got plenty of time to get there?

Running back Blake Corum rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries (4.6 ypc), with a long carry of 14 yards. Donovan Edwards continues to struggle on the ground. He managed just 13 yards on six attempts, which included a long rush of eight yards.

Edwards has rushed for 109 yards on 33 attempts (3.3 ypc) this year and he’s routinely getting tackled by the first defender.

I mentioned on last week’s Michigan Monday podcast that quarterback JJ McCarthy would probably be part of the running game this week, and he was. He ran the ball five times for 60 yards. He hasn’t been used much in the running game, but it’s not a coincidence that his best day on the ground this season was also Michigan’s best day on the ground.

McCarthy won’t need to run it every week, but against the better defenses it is an effective weapon that will continue to pay off. I just wonder if it’s too early to be a concern that they had to break it out against Rutgers.

McCarthy was sacked twice on the day and also threw a touchdown pass. No turnovers this week despite a couple of questionable throws. He did have a beautiful back-shoulder pass in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown to freshman receiver Semaj Morgan. Morgan is continuing to be a more important piece of Michigan’s passing puzzle.

Tight end Colston Loveland caught five passes for 75 yards. He is a useful receiver all over the field who has a knack for being forgotten about.

The Michigan offensive line once again moved their tackles around. Karsen Barnhart and Myles Hinton again started at left and right tackle, respectively. Hinton is dealing with a bit of an injury right now per Harbaugh, which is partially why he sometimes sits and Barnhart moves to right tackle and LaDarius Henderson comes in at left tackle. All three have had issues this season, including against Rutgers on Saturday.

When Michigan Was On Defense

Michigan gave up a 69-yard touchdown pass on Rutgers’ first drive of the game. Mike Sainristil slipped in coverage on slot receiver Christian Dremel and safety Rod Moore missed a tackle that would have ended the play before it ever got started. Instead, Dremel made it past Moore and there was nobody left to avoid.

This was Moore’s first game back and it showed. The rust was there but won’t be for long. This was a good game to learn from a bad moment.

Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt is not a threatening passer but can stress a defense with his mobility. He was held to 11-of-21 passing for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The interception went to Mike Sainristil who returned it 71 yards for a touchdown.

Wimsatt rushed for 28 yards on six attempts and was never sacked.

The lack of negative plays by Michigan’s defense — just three TFLs — was a surprise given the 20 TFLs over their previous two games. When Wimsatt did drop back, he had quite a bit of time, but Rutgers was also designing some significant protections for him.

Sophomore cornerback Will Johnson was back this week full time, so Wimsatt went after CB2 Josh Wallace instead. He had some success there but nothing to brag about.

Rutgers running back Kyle Monangai came into this game leading the Big Ten in rushing at 119 yards rushing per game. Michigan held him to 27 yards on 11 attempts. The Scarlet Knights rushed for 77 yards on 23 attempts.

Despite the lack of offense, Rutgers took the ball to Michigan’s 33-yard line or beyond on four of their eight possessions. They scored just once.

Greg Schiano’s offense never posed a legitimate threat, but they still made Michigan in earn it.

Starting defensive tackle Mason Graham was out this week with an injury and may miss another game or two.

Up next for the Michigan defense is Nebraska and quarterback Heinrich Haarberg. Haarberg hasn’t really gotten around to throwing the ball effectively yet, but has led the Huskers to a 2-0 record in his two starts. He’s rushing for 127.5 yards per game in those two victories (Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech). He’s only passing for five more yards than he’s been rushing for, however.

It will be an interesting test for a Michigan defense that did pretty well against a run-first-and-run-second quarterback this week.

The Michigan Special Teams

Place-kicker James Turner missed a 42-yard field goal and made a 46-yarder. Tommy Doman punted once for 39 yards. The Wolverines did not allow any returns.

Thus ends the special teams excitement.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that Jim Harbaugh is back on the sidelines and the days of averaging just 32 points per game while he was suspended are dead and gone.

Now they’re scoring 31 points per game!

In reality, we should give Michigan some credit for having the discipline and focus to still do their job in a very methodical fashion while facing the kind of challenges that would make a CAPTCHA test seem impossible by comparison.

Click on every square in Michigan’s schedule with a bowl team in it.

Harbaugh has crafted the kind of automaton that sleepwalks to work in the middle of the night and gets the TPS reports done without even realizing it.

Then they wake up excited about going to work.

The Wolverine offense has scored a total of 16 touchdowns in four games against the nation’s No. 20, No. 81, No. 99, and No. 104 scoring defenses, respectively. It’s not exactly explosive, but it’s been effective, efficient, and pretty effing boring.

Would we like to see more? Sure, but at some point even the hydraulic press is like, “I’m just a hydraulic press. I’m not sure what else you’re expecting me to do.”

It also means that Michigan’s schedule to this point has been the opposite of speed dating. It’s slow dating. It’s two people who meet on a dating app called “Hinder” who have nothing in common other than wanting to spend three hours together getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

Just two people sitting on the porch at Cracker Barrel never saying a word, never going into the gift shop, never even using the bathroom. Just occupying the rocking chairs so that nobody else can.

This is fun for Jim Harbaugh. He doesn’t just like milk with his steaks, he likes it with his clocks too. It’s not exciting, but it’s effective.

There’s nothing like watching a clock tick.

Simpler times. No transfer portal. No NIL. No NFL teams not calling. Just the sweet, sweet release of time.

The Road To The Game

Sept 2 – Michigan 30 – East Carolina 3
Sept 9 – Michigan 35 – UNLV 7
Sept 16 – Michigan 31 – Bowling Green 6
Sept 23 – Michigan 31 – Rutgers 7
Sept 30 – at Nebraska
Oct 7 – at Minnesota
Oct 14 – Indiana
Oct 21 – at Michigan State
Oct 28 OPEN
Nov 4 – Purdue
Nov 11 – at Penn State
Nov 18 – at Maryland
Nov 25 – Ohio State

Go to discussion...

You might also like