Michigan Football put together a solid effort on Saturday and beat Western Michigan in convincing fashion with a final score of 47-14.
While the team is far from a finished product and Western Michigan was far from an elite opponent, there are a lot more positives than negatives coming out of Saturday afternoon.
McNamara looked in control
Starting quarterback Cade McNamara didn’t do a lot, but he didn’t have to with the running game leading the way.
McNamara went 9-for-11 for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns — he was able to connect with Ronnie Bell twice deep down the field, once for a touchdown while the other gain was negated by a phantom offensive pass interference call.
McNamara was in control of the tempo, was seeing the field clearly, and made the right reads without forcing anything. The most important thing coming out of the game was the fact that McNamara played clean, it didn’t become a turnover fest, and that’s what will be required from him when Michigan plays higher caliber opponents.
Running game, offensive line was cohesive
Blake Corum rushed for 111 yards, A.J. Henning had a 74-yard touchdown run, Hassan Haskins ran for 70 yards — the ground attack for Michigan was working. The toughness and physicality of an offense becomes apparent when it boils down to whether those big offensive linemen can throw those big boys around along the d-line and open up holes for their backs. Not only did Michigan’s o-line consistently open up holes, they also protected Cade McNamara at a high clip.
McNamara’s life can be made a lot easier throughout the season if Haskins and Corum can keep cooking and that offensive line continues to play in a well-rounded manner. The talent Michigan currently has at running back is apparent, Haskins and Corum both provide something a bit different than the other, and both will have a major say in how Michigan ultimately does this year.
Ronnie Bell’s injury is a heartbreaker
Ronnie Bell is a leader, a captain, and someone who was set to be a major contributor on offense and special teams this season. Bell had a long touchdown reception, and a long punt return that ended in an injury to either his ankle or knee (we’ll know more in the coming days). Bell limped to the sideline but eventually left the field in a cart. Michigan has a good amount of depth at wideout, but Bell was Michigan’s best route runner and on the verge of a big season. Hopefully he’ll be back this year, but as it stands now, it’s a major heartbreaker in the first game of the season.
Aidan Hutchinson seems NFL ready
Aidan Hutchinson was all over the field on Saturday and made Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby’s afternoon a nightmare. Hutchinson tallied one sack, one forced fumble, and numerous quarterback hits. Hutchinson repeatedly forced Eleby into getting ride of the ball sooner than he wanted, leading to a number of poor throws.
The cohesion of Michigan’s secondary is still up in the air, so the more Hutchinson and other pass rushers are able to get home, the better.
McCarthy getting playing time was a great occurrence
J.J. McCarthy made a couple bad decisions in his debut, but also threw a highly impressive 69-yard touchdown pass to Daylen Baldwin after scrambling to avoid being sacked. Not only did McCarthy deliver a beautiful deep ball, he threw it diagonally across the field, and he threw it deep. Jim Harbaugh said he isn’t going to overcoach him in regards to innate instincts McCarthy has. Harbaugh is going to let J.J. be J.J., he’s going to let him improvise, as long as he isn’t turning the ball over in abundance.
McNamara is the clear and obvious starter, but McCarthy needs a lot of playing time because A. he’s always just a play away from coming in the game since he’s the backup QB, and B. the hope is he one day becomes the starter and live reps matter and are necessary. The time on task on Saturday afternoon will serve McCarthy well later down the road.
Michigan did what they needed to do
A blowout win over Western Michigan isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about the overall trajectory of Michigan’s season — but what it will do is bring more positivity heading into a night game at The Big House versus Washington, which could be a much closer score.
Hutchinson said in his postgame presser that the team hasn’t done a damn thing yet, and he’s right. This is one game down, they now have film to evaluate — what they did wrong, what they did right, what they can do better.
The type of performance Michigan had against Western Michigan is what should be expected, anything less than what they accomplished today would have been a disappointment. The team isn’t content and they know it’s time to get back to work and prepared for Washington.