Welp, that was a really ugly win. But a win, and that’s what Michigan desperately needed to do to in a season that has much harder games on the schedule. Getting to 2-0 ahead of the bye-week was big but we’re not gonna just skip over that performance.
I was in attendance for this one so I got to watch the game from both in-person and replayed on television. Both were ugly and tough to watch at times. But there was plenty to get out of this one.
First, enjoy* the condensed highlights:
Army 21 – Michigan 24 (OT)
Grossed out? Now check out my biggest takeaways from Michigan’s double-overtime win over Army:
1. Sloppy Seconds
For the second week in a row, Michigan had its fans throwing their hands up in the air and questioning their sanity thanks to several sloppy mistakes. But this game was all on the offense. Four more fumbles (three lost), multiple receiver drops, some really bad QB reads, plenty of missed blocks, missed opportunities, and bad coaching decisions. It was so sloppy, so ugly, and just tough to watch at times.
If Michigan doesn’t clean things up during this much-needed bye week, this could be a long, frustrating season.
2. Figure It Out
What will this team be? What will this offense be? Jim Harbaugh, Josh Gattis and the leaders of the team will need to figure out the answers to those questions.
Mistakes have to be cleaned up. That’s a simple one to call out. But it’s the offensive game plans that have been the biggest question marks.
Against Middle Tennessee State, Michigan was able to work on a lot of the playbook and what Josh Gattis looked to be bringing in. But then it was like Army came to town and Jim Harbaugh wanted to go back to a small playbook with the eyes on controlling the clock.
That meant a ton of the same or very similar play with a different wrinkle rolled in, whether or not it had success. It was extremely frustrating to watch at times from the stands and when rewatching the game on tv.
Between the two games, the run-pass ratio was almost identical but it’s the yards per rush attempt where the difference was seen.
- Middle Tennessee State
- Pass Attempts: 33
- Yards Per Pass: 6.7
- Rush Attempts: 45
- Yards Per Rush: 5.2
- Pass Attempts: 31
- Yards Per Pass: 7.5
- Rush Attempts: 45
- Yards Per Rush: 2.4
Yes, Army’s defense is much better than MTSU’s and their defensive scheme was superior but the size differential on the inside and the offensive weapons at Michigan’s disposal has to produce better than 2.4 yards per rushing attempt. That’s just gross.
Wisconsin will be the first true test of the plans. That’s not a game to mess around with and “work stuff out”. Not a game to try and match the opponent’s style either. The Badgers are going to plan on running the ball down the defense’s throat with a healthy dose of Jonathan Taylor. Michigan can do that with Zach Charbonnet a bit but it also has a much better quarterback and set of receivers and tight ends.
Let’s see exactly what Josh Gattis’ new and improved system is all about.
3. Stock Up
- Zach Charbonnet
- They fed him the rock, just like everyone asked and even with a stout run defense in front of him and inconsistent offensive line play, he still churned out his first 100-yard game and the first (3) touchdowns of his career. His pass blocking was once again stellar as well. He’s the clear cut #1 guy in the running back room.
- Aidan Hutchinson
- Sophomore standout recorded 10 total tackles, 4 solo tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 1.5 TFLs. He was one of the most productive lineman all day and was in on some of the biggest defensive plays.
- Nico Collins
- Only hauled in two catches for 32 yards but it was the lack of targets that puts him on this list. Makes sense, right? He’s the best receiving threat, especially with Donovan Peoples-Jones on the shelf, and needs to be treated like it. Or as The Michigan Insider’s Steve Lorenz said, treat him like Braylon Edwards.
- Carlo Kemp
- The interior defensive line depth is pretty scary at the moment but Kemp is starting to find his groove. He was getting pressure on the interior in a three-man front with Army’s tough offensive line, and was in on the forced fumble to end the game in overtime.
- Jake Moody
- Calm, cool and collected. Moody nailed a 43-yarder in the 2nd overtime to set the Wolverines up for the victory. That was a huge kick and one that may solidify his spot at the #1 kicker on this team.
- Early Bye Weeks
- Wasn’t a huge fan of the early bye week because I like to get into a bit of a groove to start the seasons. However, with the identity issues and sloppiness on offense, as well as a couple key injuries to the likes of Jon Runyan Jr., Michael Dwumfour, Tru Wilson and Shea Patterson, this bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
- Army Football
- Yeah, Army struggled against Rice in week one. But this is a good, well-coached football team and has been a very good program over the last couple of years. They have their system and if you’re not careful or disciplined, they’ll make you regret adding them to the schedule. It’s not like this was the #100 ranked team in the country, they were the #30 team before this game and still are after this game.
- Also, awesome to see the large group of fans and service members show up to the stadium as well. Hats off to the Black Knights program.
- This almost exact situation happened just a year ago when Army took top-10 Oklahoma to overtime. Though the Sooners took much better care of the ball, the Black Knights nearly derailed their season. Instead, OU pulled it out, cleaned itself up and went on to win the Big 12 and go to the College Football Playoff. Maybe this was just what needed to happen?
- Also, this win for Michigan over Army tied up the all-time record between the two programs.
4. Stock Down
- Quarterback Keeps
- This was a problem all game long. Shea Patterson not keeping the ball on read-option runs, and the running back getting gobbled up in the backfield. Patterson said some were by read and some were by design. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t working. Army looked to be selling out on the give by the 2nd half once it looked like Patterson wasn’t a threat to run. He’s supposedly fine health-wise but there’s clearly something off. We’ll see if he becomes that dual-threat this offense needs to really open things up.
- Harbaugh’s explanation behind not kicking the field goal in the 4th quarter to go up 17-14 was “our analytics had it that the best thing to do if we got in that situation, fourth-and-three, from that distance, was to go for it.” Well then, the analytics were wrong. In a game where Army only scored on Michigan turnovers and was unable to go more than 60 yards for a score, kicking the field goal from the 20 to go up by three and then kicking off for a touchback to make Army go almost the same length of the field would’ve been the smart decision, even in hindsight. Running for it on 4th and 2 in a tied game in the 4th quarter where your offense is struggling to put points on the board and is only averaging 2.4 yards per carry was not a smart decision.
- Quick Trigger Whistles
- Looking at you, Mr. Sideline Official. This is the guy who made the great decision to blow the play dead when Josh Metellus scooped up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown in the first half. Don’t get me wrong, it was close call. But you know what you should do when it’s that close? Let is go and then let the review figure out exactly what happened. Blowing the play dead took a touchdown off the board for Michigan, which ended up fumbling it back to Army on the first offensive snap.
- Stadium Experience
- Going off of that bad whistle, that was the biggest moment where I remembered why watching on TV is better. There was no explanation from the PA announcer or on the big screen to tell fans why or why not the play was reviewed. Leaving a lot of people to freak out and scream at Harbaugh like he didn’t already ask. And it doesn’t help when there was zero-to-little cell reception to figure out what the hell happened.
- Holding onto the Ball
- Back on the Stock Down list for consecutive weeks, it’s one of the biggest head-scratchers early on in the season. Michigan cannot hold onto the football. Be it Shea Patterson in the backfield, returners catching punts, receivers catching passes. It’s like the ball is greased up or something. Either way, everyone on the team should be carrying a ball to class and their dorms over the next two weeks.
- Running Back Depth
- Charbonnet is a beast. That’s a given. Christian Turner is the #2 guy but showed some flaws in his game with missed blocking assignments. That’s where Tru Wilson may be able to retake that spot when he returns from injury. But besides that, it doesn’t look like the staff can fully trust Ben VanSumeren and Hassan Haskins just yet. They both look to be a year award from becoming full-time contributors.
- Offensive Line Play
- Yes, All-Big Ten OT Jon Runyan Jr. has missed the first two games with injury but this line was supposed to be more than it has shown. This was supposed to be the best line in years but it’s not looking like it in the first two games. Maybe the return of Runyan will help fix things up but something will need to change, especially if this line can’t impose themselves on teams like Middle Tennessee State and Army.
- Controlling the clock with the same inside runs time and time again will make the most laid back hardcore Michigan fan, like me, even pull my hair out. That was what we saw on Saturday. Hopefully, it was a reminder of why the team is trying to evolve into a more dynamic offense.
- Clay Travis
- Michigan has literally been jumping into the student section and celebrating with their classmates for years. Worry more about not being very good at gambling advice and cheering on the most embarrassing Power Five football team in the country.
- You’re also better than that, Kirk Herbstreit.
What did you think about my takes on Michigan’s ugly win over Army? What are yours? Let us know in the comment section below?
Photo Credit: Marc-Grégor Campredon/MGoBlog