2019 MTSU vs Michigan: Biggest Takeaways

It wasn’t as pretty or dominant as everyone hoped for but there was a lot of good that came out of Michigan’s season opener against Middle Tennessee State. The Wolverines tried out a lot of things and played a lot of players. That equated into some bright spots and some sloppy mistakes. But, most importantly, there is a lot on tape for the staff to correct and dump before Big Ten play starts in week four.

Middle Tennessee State 21 – Michigan 40

Check out my main takeaways from Michigan’s win over Middle Tennessee State:

1. Preseason Game

Look at this game as a preseason game. Because that’s what it looks like Michigan was playing it as. The staff tried out a little bit of everything on the playbook (including some really intriguing RPO success), not showing much of anything, partially injured players getting the day off, getting a large portion of the roster onto the field, and that inconsistency showed with some sloppy play from start to finish.

This is why I’m not taking a ton out of this one. There are a lot of great signs for what the offense can be and the defense looked similar to the beginning of last year. Overpursuing, communication and coverage mistakes. Stuff that gets cleaned up at the start of the season. Luckily, this time around it didn’t cost them a game.

2. Two-Quarterback Play Calls = No Bueno

I get it. The staff was working out a lot of formations throughout this game and having both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey on the field at the same time. Some of the play calls included McCaffrey in motion, Patterson as a pawn on the outside, or even McCaffrey actually catching a screen pass.

The outcome of those plays included a delay of game penalty, some balls on the ground, and zero to little positive gains. It was ugly to say the least. Might be best to just put those play calls to bed. At least until the game is out of hand.

As for the two quarterback’s performances, yes Shea was sloppy with some of his handling of the snaps and handoffs but he’s the best option the team has right now. He is much more collected in the pocket and would’ve had much better numbers if his guys could’ve held onto some of those passes.

McCaffrey, the kid can move. When he gets into the open field, he’ll be in a race to the endzone every time. But you can see he still needs a little work in the passing game, especially with his pocket presence. I’ll chalk that up to the same early-season rust everyone else is dealing with.

I don’t mind seeing both in every game, as long as they’re on the field by themselves.

3. Stock Up

  • RB Zach Charbonnet
    • The true freshmen was everything he was hyped up to be. While he didn’t play a ton, when he did, was impressive. He showed the burst, quick twitch, vision, pass-catching ability, and power that had every Michigan fan swooning. Finishing with 90 yards on 8 carries, including an impressive 41-yard gain, and two receptions for 9 yards.
  • CB Ambry Thomas
    • The most shocking thing in this game was the junior from Detroit not only playing but starting and being the defense’s top playmaker. A pretty interception to kill an MTSU drive followed by a fumble recovery gave Thomas two turnovers to go along with solid coverage whenever he was on the field.
  • WR Tarik Black
    • After roller coaster 2017 and 2018 seasons, it was awesome to see Black not only score the first touchdown of the 2019 season but lead the team in receiving for the game. The trio of Black, Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones (when healthy) will be fun to watch throughout the season.
  • CB Vincent Gray
    • He was a main pick to breakout for the defense and he showed why on Saturday night. He showed well in coverage but really proved himself as an open-field tackler, including a beautiful tackle for loss on the goal line. The trio of Gray, Thomas, and Levert Hill have a bright future for the Wolverines.
  • DE Aidan Hutchinson
    • After breaking out his freshmen year, Hutchinson showed why he is a star in the making in his sophomore season opener. He showed that quick first step, pure power, and motor that had him in the backfield throughout the game. He has All-B1G written all over him.
  • OT Ryan Hayes
    • You hardly heard Hayes’ name called during the game and that’s normally a really good thing for an offensive lineman. The redshirt freshmen stepped in to start at left tackle for Jon Runyan and held his own even better than his fellow redshirt freshmen starting tackle, Jalen Mayfield. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fight for starting time throughout the season, even when Runyan is back to 100%.
  • Kicking Game
    • The two-kicker system looked pretty clean. Jake Moody handled spot-kicks while Quinn Nordin took over the extra points. And it worked like a charm to start. Not to mention, the kickoffs were automatically driven high and to the goal line every time, forcing a fair catch for MTSU. It may be a little overlooked at times, but having a consistent kicking game can literally be a game-changer.

4. Stock Down

  • Catching the Ball
    • Costly drops from Ronnie Bell, Nico Collins, and Sean McKeon in the passing game were bad but the muffed punt in the return game by Levert Hill was worse. And that wasn’t even his worst drop of the night. He had arguably the worst drop I’ve ever seen (not kidding) on a sure-fire pick-six in the second half. It was one of those ones where he just needs to laugh it off. Whether it’s a one-foot putt or a hitting a wide-open net, we’ve all messed up on the most simple parts of our game. Stuff happens.
  • Holding onto the Ball
    • To go along with dropping passes and punts, Michigan (Shea Patterson especially) couldn’t figure out how to hold onto the ball. Patterson lost the ball on the first snap of the game and put the ball on the ground 3-4 more times throughout the game. No more pre-game popcorn for this team.
  • Pass Rushing
    • Michigan struggled to get pressure on the quarterback with only four down lineman and had to rely on blitzing linebackers or defensive backs. That could be a real problem if it continues into Big Ten play.
  • Health
    • Michigan was without Donovan Peoples-Jones, Donovan Jeter, Jon Runyan for the entire game while Michael Dwumfour went out early on. The offense saw both Tru Wilson (hand) and Tarik Black (cramping) head to the locker room in the first half for minor issues before returning, and Shea Patterson have to be evaluated at the half after getting smoked in the ribs by a free pass rusher.
  • Clock Management
    • Just in case Jim Harbaugh reads this, timeouts don’t carry over into the 2nd half. These aren’t wireless “anytime” cellphone minutes. No need to waste a down by spiking the ball with two timeouts in your pocket and 20 seconds left on the clock. That is all.

What were your biggest takeaways from Michigan’s 2019 season-opening win over Middle Tennessee State? Let us know in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog

Garrett Fishaw