A Rocky Start
Sloppy. That’s the way the Wolverines look through two games so far. After a shaky start against MTSU, many fans thought they would tighten up against Army. And then Saturday came, and Michigan escaped a tense game with a three-point double OT win. Where play-calling looked good against MTSU it stalled against Army.
What’s Been Wrong?
A few things can’t be attributed to the ugly play we have seen so far. The biggest has to ball security. Five fumbles for turnovers through the first two games isn’t a good look. Michigan could have won both games comfortably with a few fewer fumbles. Four of these turnovers resulted in scores for opponents. Ball security is issue number one for Michigan right now.
The O-Line is also a bit of a concern thus far. Granted, they have allowed for pretty good protection for their quarterbacks, except for a few missed assignments. However, the front line didn’t create enough push against Army to break open significant running lanes. They averaged 5.2 yards a carry against MTSU, but only 2.4 with Army.
What’s Been Right?
There are things to enjoy about Michigan so far if you avoid the doom and gloom. The defense looked much improved against Army. The triple-option is tough to defend but they kept Army from gaining large chunks of yards at a time. In fact, through two games, opponents are averaging only 3 yards per carry.
When passing, Michigan has managed to move the ball effectively. 452 yards through the air over two games is nothing to scoff at. Patterson also improved his accuracy in the Army game, completing 65.5% of his throws. There have been a few drops, but as the season goes on, that will tighten up.
Time for Panic?
No. Though the army game looked rough there are a few things to note. On Monday, OC Josh Gattis walked through his game plan for Army. It was heavily modeled after analytics and the Oklahoma game from last season. The Wolverines went old school trying to even-out the time of possession. they knew Army was a slow offense. Oklahoma got into trouble by letting Army hold onto the ball for too long. Gattis’ goal was for Michigan to keep Army’s offense off the field and pin them deep. statistically, this made sense. If properly executed this game plan spares Michigan the pains that Oklahoma suffered.
That brings us back to “What went wrong”. Two turnovers that resulted in scoring drives. An unfortunate call on an Army fumble prevented Michigan from taking an early 14-7 lead. The plan was solid, the execution was just off, and the result is a scary win for the Maize and Blue.
I think the Army game has caused a bit of an over-reaction. It was ugly, and, understandably, fans are concerned. Consider this for one moment though. Against MTSU Michigan’s play-calling was anything but predictable. it moved the ball all night and only stalled on Fumbles. Take away one turnover in each game and you’re likely looking at 47-14 and 21-7 point victories. Gattis was an excellent game planner at Penn State and Bama, he didn’t suddenly forget that. His game plan for Army makes sense and was a key turnover from looking flawless. More than anything what’s plaguing this team right now is ball security. Michigan has a much needed off week to work this out before facing a formidable Wisconsin team. Expect their approach against the Badgers to look much different, and don’t write them off just yet. Trust in this, Gattis has a plan.