Michigan needed a slump-busting laugher of a win in the worst way this weekend against Rutgers and they were able to get just that in a 52-0 victory on Saturday.
Heavy emphasis on who the opponent was this week. But they are graded on the performance against who they lined up against, so here we go.
Shea Patterson was 17-for-23 on the day for 276 yards and four total touchdowns (three rushing). He was comfortable and in command throughout a game for the first time all season and looked healthier and more on point. The zip was back on his throws and the accuracy was improved. The one big mistake he did make came on an interception down the field intended for Nico Collins on a ball that was a bit underthrown, but that’s the type of turnover you’ll take out of this offense from being aggressive as opposed to being reckless with the football. Overall, a really nice day for Patterson and Joe Milton, who impressed in his limited time and showed off some of his arm strength we’ve heard so much about.
Running Backs: C+
Michigan’s running backs were okay on Saturday, but they still lack the ability to pop explosive plays. Saturday was a pieced together effort from the Michigan rushing attack with Christian Turner leading the way with 11 rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown. These guys run extremely hard, but we have not seen enough to suggest that this is a facet of the offense that they need to expand on or build around moving forward. Zach Charbonnet continues to be limited as they seek to lighten his workload and it was also nice to see Tru Wilson back, but outside of a 15-yard rush from Hassan Haskins late in the game, there was not a whole lot to be impressed by here. Averaging 3.4 yards per carry against Rutgers is concerning.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
The wideouts were pretty good again on Saturday, but believe it or not, they were basically walking on air all afternoon. The Wolverines did a nice job spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved, as eight different receivers accounted for the 20 completions on the day. Ronnie Bell led the way again with six catches for 83 yards, but Michigan got Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins involved as well. Collins had the lone receiving touchdown of the day on a 48-yarder on the first drive of the game, assisted by freshman tight end Erick All along the sideline on a block that sprung him free. If we’re nitpicking here, the interception intended for Collins may have been avoided if he pulls the ball up like a rebound, but then you chance not being able to secure the football. Hats off to a really nice play from the Rutgers defensive back.
Offensive Line: B
The pass blocking on Saturday was excellent and Patterson had windows to throw in all day long. What remains a concern is the inability to open up holes in the run game and consistently move bodies, which is baffling given the players Michigan has on its front line. Hopefully the switch flips at some point because a much more physical football team comes to Ann Arbor next week.
Defensive Line: A-
Michigan’s defensive line was questioned all week and those guys rose to the task at hand, bludgeoning Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski all day long. The performance was headlined by a breakout game from Kwity Paye, who had been quiet to this point. He finished with six total tackles (3.5 for loss), and 1.5 sacks on the afternoon. Rutgers is woefully inept across the board, but especially in the trenches and Michigan took out its frustrations on a bad football team.
The headline of the day for the linebackers has to do with the play of Cam McGrone, who started in the middle and drew rave reviews for his debut performance. It was not perfect, but the growing pains that he may have on the field might be worth it with the upside that he brings to the table. Other than that, Michigan was fine here most of the day with solid outings from Josh Uche and Khaleke Hudson. Jordan Glasgow had some struggles on a drive, but the body of work for him has been pretty strong overall.
Defensive Backs: B+
Outside of what Rutgers got out of Raheem Blackshear (seven catches, 55 yards), it was a virtual nothing for the Scarlet Knights through the air on the day. The concern remains Michigan’s ability to defend a crossing route, but this is something that goes back seven games or so for them and it does not seem like a major emphasis, so that’s a coaching mark as opposed to players not executing. All in all, you can’t be too upset out of what you got here. Dax Hill got some extended run with the No. 1 defense and Brad Hawkins continues to play very well.
Special Teams: A
No missed kicks, coverage units all looked solid, and there were no major errors. Mike Sainristil muffed a punt in garbage time, but the game was already well in hand. People do not give Chris Partridge enough credit for the job he does with the special teams and it was another great effort from that unit.
Jim Harbaugh and his staff were questioned all week and they knew they needed to turn things around in a hurry. They played a hapless and pathetic opponent, but after what we saw last week, they very easily could have shut it down and went through the motions. The sense of urgency all week was high and they prepared their team well for a thorough demolition of a Big Ten doormat. The true questions about them will not be answered until the next big game they play, but they deserve credit for rallying the troops after a rough outing.
The move to have Josh Gattis on the sideline calling plays was a positive one, and his energy was palpable down on the field. The coaches and players said as much. It begs the question why he was never there in the first place. The only real mark against the staff in this game is that they continue to get burned by the crossing routes. That will be harped on until the day they fix it.