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Takeaways from Michigan’s win over Rutgers

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It wasn’t pretty, but Michigan prevailed.

Rutgers v Michigan Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

No. 19 Michigan narrowly beat Rutgers on Saturday afternoon, improving to 4-0 on the season. After jumping out to a 20-3 lead at halftime, Michigan’s offense scuffled the final two quarters and won 20-13.

Here are takeaways from the game.

A good first half on offense, but the wheels feel off after halftime

  • Michigan had 156 yards passing in the 1st Half, but just 7 yards in the 2nd Half.
  • Michigan was 4-of-8 on 3rd Down in the 1st Half, but went 0-for-5 in the 2nd Half.
  • Michigan rushed for 77 yards in the 1st Half, but just 35 in the 2nd Half.

Michigan’s inability to gain any traction through the air really limited the offense, leading Rutgers to key in on the run and bottle it up. Cade McNamara was inaccurate and was out of rhythm in the 2nd Half, missing a couple throws that should have went for touchdowns. There were also a couple drops. However, the quarterback gets the praise when an offense does well and the criticism when the unit becomes ineffective.

While McNamara can be credited for some positive plays in the early going, consistency is key throughout four quarters, and the inability to get first downs almost did Michigan in. At one point in the second half Michigan threw three times in a row, all winding up incomplete.

McNamara will have to improve in a hurry, the better teams on the schedule (such as Wisconsin) are right around the corner, and there will be even less margin for error. Whatever led to the inaccurate and lackluster second half — those issues must be sorted out swiftly.

Defense bent, but didn’t break

Michigan’s defense gave up some yards, gave up first downs, but didn’t give up a whole lot of points despite being on the field a ton. Rutgers won the time of possession battle handily in the third quarter, controlling the clock for 10:28. Michigan’s offense couldn’t churn out a first down and put the defense in a hard place. Rutgers might have gotten their fair share of positive gains as the game wore on, but they answered the bell in the final minute to seal the game when David Ojabo stripped Rutgers quarterback Noah Verdal.

While Michigan’s front-seven didn’t get off blocks as well as they did through three weeks, they did an admirable job considering the offense didn’t do much to aid them. There were a few worrisome plays in the secondary, a few tackles that were missed, but it’s hard to criticize the unit much factoring in they gave up just 13 points and were on the field more than they should have been.

This was a wake up call

Michigan has not been the ones tooting their own horn — a constant theme from Jim Harbaugh this year has been Michigan not falling in love with their stuff. Michigan knows more than the outside world about who they are, what they’re good at, and what their biggest deficiencies are. Michigan played well in non-conference action, and Rutgers is the best team they’ve played through four weeks — the game was a wake up call. This was the type of game that was necessary before playing a team like Wisconsin on the road.

The bottom line is Michigan’s offense, particularly their passing offense, has to get better.