Michigan Football dropped its rivalry showdown with the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night by a score of 14-10 in a game that was marred by several shotgun blasts to the feet of the Wolverines.
The weather was bad, but the Michigan offense was worse. And the sinking feeling of losing another rivalry game is going to haunt fans for another year or so.
Here are the takeaways:
Questioning the Coaching Staff
Yes, that is allowed. And it should be.
This football team never looked ready to play outside of the opening drive of the game on offense, which resulted in another stalled drive in the endzone that brought about a field goal attempt.
The playcalling in this game was, at times, atrocious. During a stretch of the game where the rain started coming down, Michigan passed the ball as frequently as one would if they were playing in an indoor stadium. Which is mind-boggling considering the fact that they actually did have some success on the ground.
There are still some huge lingering questions about this program that exist in year three under this coaching staff.
This is a program with an offensive guru at the helm, yet the offense has gotten worse each year. Quarterback play has fans yearning for the return of Jake Rudock-like production, which while solid is not what the expectation was when Jim Harbaugh was brought in to resurrect Michigan Football.
The offensive line has gotten worse every season when the expectation was that this was going to be a team where their identity was going to be to run the ball and grind out games led by the guys in the trenches.
Defensively, it has been top-notch. We’ll give those guys some love in their own heading.
The fact of the matter is that Harbaugh preaches a “get better every day, week, month, etc.” mentality, but this team is going backwards this year and has been less impressive every week on offense.
It would be one thing if they just simply did not execute, which they did not. But it is entirely another when it does not feel like they were put in a position to succeed in the first place.
Young mistakes? Negative
One of the running bits heading into this year was that this was a young team that was going to make mistakes, and they would be valuable growing pains for the future.
That has not been the case, at least in Saturday night’s game.
Ty Isaac, a fifth-year senior, had a costly fumble that swung the momentum of the game early on.
Karan Higdon, a junior, had an egregious holding penalty on what would have been a touchdown for the Wolverines.
John O’Korn, in his third-year with the program, had three back-breaking interceptions.
Despite all of that, they had a chance to win the game on the final drive. And when the Wolverines needed a huge play from Eddie McDoom, a sophomore, he dropped a must-have catch that cost the team almost a quarter of the field’s worth of yardage.
These are players that have to lead the way for the Wolverines while the young guys do get their feet wet, and they aren’t. That may be the most damning thing of all.
Praised be Don Brown
What more can be said about Brown and his defense. Were there a few mistakes? Sure, but that unit continues to come to play every week and give Michigan a chance to win games. The Wolverines turned over the ball five times on Saturday and still had a chance to win because the defense never broke.
Rivalry Game Woes
For the second time in three years under Harbaugh, and eighth time in the last 11 years for the program, Mark Dantonio’s team came into this rivalry showdown and punched the Wolverines in the mouth and got a win.
Michigan is now 1-4 in rivalry games under Harbaugh and the lone win came against a 3-9 Spartans team in 2016. And now the community will be forced to hear about for the next year, which has been a far-too-frequent development for Wolverines fans to stomach.
It would be irresponsible suggest that the “Little Brother” mentality still exists in the Michigan locker room, but it certainly still does with much of the fans. MSU has earned the respect, and in a lot of ways the fear, that OSU has when looking over that schedule. Until his days are done, Dantonio will always have his program ready for this game.
It is hard to pinpoint just what goes wrong for Michigan in these games, but turnovers are certainly killers. The 1-4 record is one thing, but the fact of the matter is that they are 0-1 in rivalry showdowns this season and that loss will be a head-scratcher after being installed as a 10-point favorite.
There really are not many excuses for this one. At the end of the day, the Wolverines went home with a loss and the Spartans hold their heads high with the Paul Bunyan Trophy.