I know — It’s the Sunday morning after the much-anticipated debut of this “new team,” that gave you the old song and dance. The promised improvements were nowhere to be seen outside of the quarterback. Now, you can’t even convince yourself that the quarterback being good matters because there’s a low-ceiling for what he can do with another abysmal offensive line performance.
What transpired on that humid night in South Bend was nothing what you hoped to see. Some of you are ready to move on, some of you think this has no detrimental implications on the season.
Here’s the good news.
A non-conference loss by a touchdown on the road isn’t going to crush this team’s dreams. Though they certainly didn’t look like one last night, the opportunity to be a playoff team remains.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of Michigan’s loss to Notre Dame.
Defensive adjustments: Michigan’s offense came out bad and its defense came out worse. The defense gave up 302 yards, 233 of those came in the first half. In the second half, the defense allowed just 69 yards and 3 points. The adjustments gave the offense multiple chances on numerous second-half stops in the middle of the field and forced a three-and-out to give the offense a chance at the end of the game. If the defense plays anywhere near as good as the second half the rest of the way, it’s going to be a national unit.
Quarterback play: Shea Patterson was nowhere near the problem. In his debut, he went 20-of-30 for 227 yards. He didn’t pass for a touchdown, threw a pick on contact, and fumbled because he was brought down by three Irish defenders at once. Though his performance wasn’t great, it was certainly better than what Michigan got from its quarterbacks on the road last season. He’s an upgrade, and in my opinion, he’s just getting started. Not to mention, RS freshman Dylan McCaffrey came in behind Patterson and looked like an upgrade from last season.
Play-calling remains questionable:?I hate judging play calls in college football. Most of the time, the go-to is ‘If it works, you love it; If it doesn’t, you hate it,’ but Saturday night proved there’s not a whole lot of things working. The abundance of rushing plays when it clearly wasn’t going anywhere, deep into the fourth quarter especially, is worth high questioning. Patterson needed to be let loose more, too many plays seemed forced and safe.
Receivers struggling to get open:?Aside from the deep-ball to Nico Collins to open the second half, there was rare if any separation created by the receivers. Early on, it seemed they were creating some, noticeably on comeback and out routes. The second half lacked that, and when opportunities came to capitalize, receivers routes were taking too long and Patterson was sacked. Which brings us to …
The offensive line:?Last season, in the latter half, Michigan’s offensive line got a nice push in the running game. The pass protection was brutal but the run game could at least keep the offense alive. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Karan Higdon carried the ball for 72 yards. Chris Evans had just one, on a surprising two carries. The Irish defense totaled seven tackles for loss in dominant fashion. On top of that, the pass pro looked much of the same, if not worse, than last season. Michigan was sacked three times, which isn’t bad, but had Patterson not escaped six QB hurries, that number sky rockets. A
Overall, the season isn’t in panic mode. Jim Harbaugh’s track record in tough games is, though. There’s reason to think what’s happened in the past (losing big games) will probably happen again this season, given the two rivalry games left are on the road. But there’s also reason to consider that Patterson and the offense showed potential — emphasis on Patterson — and Michigan’s offensive line could be a couple freshmen replacing some seniors away from being serviceable. That’s all Patterson needs.
There’s reason to panic on Harbaugh’s big-game track record, but there isn’t reason to panic on the season’s potential after one non-conference loss.