Michigan scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of Saturday’s 10-3 win over Iowa and then Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis spent the next 53 minutes of the game trying to figure out exactly how they did it.
“What did you do?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Well can you do it again?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I mean I don’t know!”
“Weren’t you writing it down!?”
“I thought you were writing it down!”
Meanwhile, Lone Starr and Barf are totally escaping with Princess Vespa while all of this is going on.
It wasn’t any better for the Hawkeyes, who kicked their field goal with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter, which means the final 42 minutes of this game featured the kind of quarterback play normally reserved for a November game between Maryland and Illinois.
Still, this was a win that Michigan desperately needed and it was a win I frankly didn’t think they’d get. I expected the Iowa offense to fare better, but in my defense, I thought the “QB” next to Nate Stanley’s name meant that he was a quarterback.
The Hawkeye offense was held to 261 yards — of which 260 of those yards came through the air.
The Wolverines managed a whopping 267 yards of their own. Following the game, Harbaugh said that he felt Michigan’s offense is hitting its stride.
I don’t know if that’s a colloquialism or if “stride” means something else in Michigan than it means everywhere else on the planet, but if this is Michigan hitting its stride on offense, it might be time to give Al Borges a call and see what he’s up to these days.
When Michigan Was On Offense
The Wolverines rushed for 120 yards on 33 attempts (3.6 ypc), making it four consecutive games averaging under four yards per carry this season. Not even Rich Rodriguez went four games in a row in his Michigan career averaging under four yards per carry. Brady Hoke’s 2013 team did, however, manage to equal this lowlight, so that’s something.
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet led the team with 13 rushes for 42 yards, scoring once. Charbonnet’s long carry was just seven yards.
The longest carry of the day for the Wolverines went to freshman Hassan Haskins, who went for 18 yards on third-and-one in the second quarter. It was Michigan’s longest carry since Charbonnet went 41 yards in the fourth quarter of the season opener against Middle Tennessee.
Charbonnet is the only Wolverine with a carry of at least 20 yards (he has just one) and it has been 151 rushes for Michigan since that happened.
Removing sacks, Michigan has run the ball 172 times this season and only once did they pick up more than 18 yards.
Three different Buckeyes had rushes of at least 35 yards against Michigan State this past weekend. The longest they went between carries of 20 yards against the Spartans was 13 attempts.
Iowa went into Saturday’s game with one of the Big Ten’s best rush defenses, so I didn’t expect Michigan to run the ball well. Using Shea Patterson in the ground game — 5 rushes, 40 yards — helped those numbers and will continue to help as long as he is healthy enough to do it.
Through the air, Patterson completed 14-of-26 passes for 147 yards with one interception and zero touchdowns.
Iowa was concerned about Patterson throwing deep to Nico Collins (3-63), Tarik Black (1-20), and Donovan Peoples-Jones (4-26) in this game, which they should have been. Patterson only took one deep shot on the day, however, connecting with Collins for 51 yards in the first quarter. That gain was part of Michigan’s only touchdown drive.
So why didn’t the Wolverines keep attacking deep and why do we always ask this same question every week? I still don’t know. Patterson tried to pull the trigger on another deep ball, but couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Of his 26 passes, eight went beyond 15 yards in the air. Two of those were throwaways and only two were completed. Of his 14 completions, 10 were thrown less than eight yards downfield.
The reason this is important is because Michigan seemingly has receivers who could get big chunks of yardage, but this offense isn’t focused on making that happen. With a running game that has no explosion, why not at least try to make life easier with some shots downfield?
This was not a fast Iowa football team, offensively or defensively.
Speed in space was again nowhere to be found, and I’m not sure it was ever really there in the first place.
When Michigan Was On Defense
The Wolverines did a very nice job in this game defensively. Pretty much the only success Iowa had on offense was with crossing routes, but they weren’t able to do much with them.
Quarterback Nate Stanley completed 23-of-42 passes for 260 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also sacked eight times.
Stanley was not good in this game even when he had time, which he never had all that much of.
Defensive end Kwity Paye came up with 2.5 sacks before leaving due to an injury which Jim Harbaugh isn’t providing an update on yet. Fellow ends Aidan Hutchinson and Michael Danna each had a sack as well. They all did this against a pair of offensive tackles who I’ve been told are future NFL players.
This was the defensive line’s most disruptive outing. They came into the game with just 2.5 sacks between the entire defensive line. More games like this will be needed. It can’t all just be Don Brown blitzing because that has its drawbacks against teams that can take advantage of it. Iowa, however, had neither the quarterback, nor the offensive line, nor the receivers.
I watched the game live and was surprised to look at the box score and see that Stanley threw for 260 yards, which tells you how impactful those yards weren’t. The yards came between the 30s and never went closer. Iowa spent a lot of this game in Michigan territory and had three points to show for it.
Michigan’s defense was tremendous when it came time to holding their ground, but Iowa was also great at screwing things up all by themselves.
Iowa rushed for just one yard on 30 attempts as Stanley lost 65 yards via sacks.
Freshman safety Daxton Hill had a nice game as Michigan’s nickel back. He finished with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and tipped a pass that became an interception.
Overall, this was a great outing for a Michigan defense that convinced nobody last week against Rutgers. Iowa’s offense doesn’t scare anybody, but the Wolverines did precisely what they needed to in this game — and beyond. This was the Hawkeyes’ lowest regular season point total since 2011, so it shouldn’t be dismissed.
The Michigan Special Teams
Will Hart punted the ball eight times on Saturday, averaging a robust 45.6 yards per boot. He put exactly none of those kicks inside the 20-yard line and had two touchbacks. Fortunately for Michigan, they were playing against an offense that was found frozen in a Macedonian cave and only recently thawed.
Both of the Wolverines’ kickers — Jake Moody and Quinn Nordin — missed kicks. Moody’s miss came from 34 yards out in the fourth quarter when Michigan was looking for an insurance score. Nordin’s was a bit more justifiable as it was a 58-yard attempt at the end of the first half.
Donovan Peoples-Jones had a nice 36-yard punt return, which was good to see. If he’s just going to be a hood ornament on offense, maybe he can do something on special teams.
What Does It All Mean?
It means in speed in space, no one can hear you scream.
Michigan’s offense concerns nobody at this point. There are some concerning individual parts, but when you put them all together, it’s just not working.
Nico Collins, Tarik Black, and Donovan Peoples-Jones are all players that deserve a defense’s focus. They also deserve the offense’s focus, which they’re not getting at this point.
And that’s the good news.
The Wolverines have experience all over the offensive line, but the running game isn’t showing it. Much of that can be put on the fact that the running back experience and talent is lower than it has been in a very long time at Michigan. Still, this offensive line group has been unable to come together and just set the tone.
The Wolverines may not have the most talented running backs, but they should be good enough to look like they belong in the conference.
Eighty yards is just too hard for this offense right now. Everything is an ordeal.
And I’m not sure who has less confidence in Shea Patterson right now — Josh Gattis, Jim Harbaugh, or Patterson himself.
Perhaps next week at Illinois this offense can begin to click like the defense may have begun doing over these last two weeks.
It also means that nothing that has happened to this point is too much to overcome.
If Michigan wins these next three games — at Illinois, at Penn State, and then at home against Notre Dame, they’re back in the Top 10 and sniffing around a Big Ten Championship.
And who knows, while we’re wishing upon a star, maybe they’d even find a way to avoid having to play Wisconsin for a second time.
The Road to The Game
Aug. 31 — Michigan 40 – Middle Tennessee 21 (1-0)
Sept. 7 — Michigan 24 – Army 21 (2-0)
Sept. 21 — Wisconsin 35 – Michigan 14 (2-1, 0-1)
Sept. 28 — Michigan 52 – Rutgers 0 (3-1, 1-1)
Oct. 5 — Michigan 10 – Iowa 3 (4-1, 2-1)
Oct. 12 — at Illinois
Oct. 19 — at Penn State
Oct. 26 — Notre Dame
Nov. 2 — at Maryland
Nov. 16 — Michigan State
Nov. 23 — at Indiana
Nov. 30 — Ohio State