Wins and losses usually don’t boil down to luck, the game is won by the team that executes more throughout sixty minutes. The team that cashes in on their opportunities normally wins.
For Michigan’s offense in 2020, consistency throughout four quarters of football is an important aspect the team is trying to improve upon. “We played arguably two of the top four teams in the country the last two games (Ohio State and Alabama), and we played them competitively for 90 minutes out of 120,” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said this week. “You really need the full games, but the thing that stood out in those two games was the skill. That’s an area where we have to develop. Games are going to be won by our skill players, and they understand that and they know the challenge.”
While the Michigan offense improved throughout the 2019 season, there were moments when a big play was needed on offense from their quarterback, but an errant pass was thrown instead, when a big catch was necessary but a drop occurred instead, when a running back had a gaping hole for big yardage but ran the wrong way instead. Those missed opportunities can greatly influence momentum and whether a team wins or loses.
“We were much better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the season, but you need skill to take over games,” Gattis said. “You need that from your quarterbacks, you need that from your running backs, you need that from your receivers. That was an area at the end of the year where we didn’t capitalize and make the plays that were needed. That’s where we could’ve won those two games. You look at the receiver position, there were some big-time opportunities that we missed in those last two games that could’ve been difference makers in the game.”
Gattis went on to emphasize that MIchigan’s receivers must become more consistent and that there were far too many plays in 2019 where a wideout dropped a ball or was thrown a catchable pass that was broken up. “I think every skill position, for us, has an area that we need to focus on, specifically when you look at receivers. We gotta catch the ball more consistently,” Gattis said. “We had some big-time opportunities, whether that’s pass breakups or drops. I think when you look at our passing game, I’ll tell you an interesting stat, out of our 203 incompletions last year, we had 125 that were catchable, whether the ball was broken up or just dropped off the tip.”
Michigan hasn’t even started their spring practices yet, but Gattis is already challenging his wideouts to improve. “When you look at how many opportunities we had one-on-one in space, that’s an area we gotta improve, making the last defender miss, to be able to create explosive plays,” Gattis said. “These are challenges that I’ve presented to these groups already.”
Gattis comments ring true when looking back at the 2019 season. Key mistakes, missed opportunities on offense against Penn State, Ohio State, and Alabama led to Michigan playing from behind or not being able to regain a lead. Each skill position had their fingerprints on these missed opportunities, and it’s a collective blame with no lone player deserving a bunch of fingers being solely pointed at them. Nonetheless, dropping passes, fumbling balls away, throwing inaccurate passes and interceptions will doom even the most talented team in the nation. For Michigan’s offense to reach their full potential under Gattis and head coach Jim Harbaugh, the amount of self-inflicted wounds must decrease. The talent is in place, but now it’s all about the talent executing at a high clip for sixty minutes each and every week. A high bar? Yes, but Harbaugh and Gattis wouldn’t have it any other way.