Is everyone okay? I personally had to call up my doctor to get a re-up on my nitroglycerin medication after sitting through the Michigan versus Army nail biter today. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s recap:
Okay…What just happened
Going into week 2, Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines had an opportunity to quell some of the uneasiness that plagued fans following an unconvincing victory against Middle Tennessee to start the season. Unfortunately, the Wolverines looked outmatched by the Black Knights, and barely squeaked by after a missed Army field goal sent the game to overtime. The Wolverines were able to eventually put up a field goal in the second overtime, followed by a 4th down forced fumble by Army’s Kelvin Hopkins, to seal the victory.
Michigan started off slow once again, allowing a touchdown off a recovered fumble in the first quarter. Slow starts are becoming somewhat of a pattern for the Michigan offense – who surrendered a first-quarter fumble in Week 1 as well (which also resulted in a touchdown). As highly touted as Michigan’s offensive line was coming into the season, they haven’t given starting quarterback Shea Patterson much time to work within the pocket. Patterson hasn’t done himself any favors as well, missing wide-open receivers, fumbling the ball twice, and going ice cold in overtime as he struggled to even throw a spiral. It’s hard to say whether this should be attributed to an injury Patterson suffered early last week, or if questionable play-calling by Harbaugh has set the offense up for failure, but it’s hard to overlook Michigan’s inconsistent – if not erratic – passing game.
The less bad
The lone bright spot for the Wolverine’s offense has to be Zach Charbonnet, whom I will deem the winner of this year’s “Karan Higdon award”; a prestigious title given to the Michigan tailback who will be relentlessly – and infuriatingly – slammed between the tackles, taking a few borderline targeting hits along the way. Charbonnet carried the ball 33 times for the Wolverines against Army, which has brought up questions about running back depth as the season progresses; what happened to Christian Turner, Ben VanSumeren, and Hassan Haskins in the wake of Tru Wilson’s hand injury? Charbonnet’s workload is acceptable as Michigan approaches a bye week, but it’s something that will surely necessitate attention during the long haul of the season.
This is my 4th year as a Michigan Student, and my 3rd as a season ticket holder, so I’m pretty familiar with the general vibe of The Big House. From the student section reciting the entirety of “Mr. Brightside” from memory, to the enthusiasm of the entire fanbase when the Slippery Rock game shows up on the scoreboard, Michigan fans are generally exuberant and optimistic. This game, however, was a completely different story. Never before have I heard the Michigan student section “Boo” their own starting Quarterback, develop an overwhelming sense of loathing towards Jim Harbaugh, or actively cheer for the other team, but that’s exactly what I got during the Army game – and I’m actually filled with resentment for both the program and it’s fans.
For one, Harbaugh has to dial in how to effectively utilize his offensive weapons. It’s aggravating to watch between-the-tackles three-and-outs with such dynamic offensive forces such as Tarik Black, Ronnie Bell, and Dylan McCaffrey sitting idly by.
On the other hand, Michigan’s defense has been the strongest aspect of their roster in recent years, and this season is no exception. Besides forcing the game-sealing fumble in overtime, Michigan’s defense did everything they could to keep the Black Knights triple-option offense. Cornerback Lavert Hill intercepted a pass on third-and-goal, saving at least three points. In the fourth quarter, the Wolverines stopped Army twice — including on the final drive of the game, when Michigan held the Black Knights to a missed 50-yard field goal.
It’s clear then, that the point of contention is once again on Michigan’s quarterback play. After years of substandard performances from the likes of John O’Korn, Wilton Speight, and Shane Morris, Jim Harbaugh will be forced to make a decision between veteran transfer Shea Patterson and unproven scrambler Dylan McCraffrey to take the team to the next level. Reprehensible fan response aside, Harbaugh needs to put the best possible product on the field, as it’s no secret that his job is at stake should we see a less than stellar outcome against our Big Ten rivals.
A win is a win, but I can’t help but cringe at the thought of Michigan’s current team going up against (19) Michigan State’s devastating defense, (5) Ohio State’s dominant run game, or the experience and talent of (8) Notre Dame. With this narrow victory, I must declare this football season officially CANCELED. Pack up the pads and go home, because the rest of the season is looking like a big fat “L” for the Maize and Blue. Well at least we have basketball season to look forward too… right?