Michigan football survives against Rutgers but leave fans feeling uneasy

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

If you covered the final score and just looked at the team stats, you’d think that Rutgers marched into the Big House and defeated the Michigan football team on Saturday afternoon.

Since the return of head coach Greg Schiano Rutgers is no longer an easy out.  They play tough and certainly a gritty brand of football.  Schiano’s team somewhat mirrors what Jim Harbaugh expects in a football team; both pride themselves on running the football on offense, controlling the clock, and playing tough defense.

Michigan football was outgained 352 total yards to 275, nearly 100 yards by Rutgers, yet still held off the Scarlett Knights.  Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral fumbled the ball late while scrambling forward for positive yards with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Scarlett Knights put themselves in a position to march down the field late in the fourth quarter in Ann Arbor and tie the game after Jake Moody missed a 47-yard field goal, but that fumble sealed the victory for the Wolverines.

Rutgers ran a total of 73 plays, converted on seven of their 16 third-down attempts and possessed the football for 32:37 minutes, and only punted the football twice.

Michigan football totaled 54 offensive plays, converted just four of 11 times on third down, and punted the football five times while possessing the football 27:23 minutes.  Let me just reiterate one thing again, this was against Rutgers.

Michigan led at the half 20-3 and merely held on to win the contest 20-13.  As embarrassing as it is not to score a single point in the second half of a close ball game, the Michigan offense sputtered with quarterback Cade McNamara at the helm.

Michigan football’s predictable, conservative offense will come back to haunt them sooner than later.

McNamara couldn’t get anything going in the second half, and Rutgers forced four straight three-and-outs.  McNamara finished the day throwing for 163 yards completing just nine of his 16 pass attempts.

Hassan Haskins scored a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Wolverines, one from just a yard out, and the other came on a three-yard scamper.  He’d finish the day averaging just 3.4 yards per tote, totaling 41 yards on 12 carries.  Blake Corum recorded 68 rushing yards on 21 carries but was held without a score.

That was not the same elite rushing production we saw out of the Wolverines over the season’s first three games.   Schiano exposed the Wolverines offense and created a template for others to mirror as the season grows old.

Michigan thought they could bow their neck and run the football for a handful of yards whenever they’d like.  That wasn’t the case Saturday against Rutgers.  The Scarlett Knights stacked the box with eight defenders and dared Michigan to run into it.  Well, the stubborn Harbaugh/Gattis offense did just that and ran right into the stacked box during the whole second half of the ball game with basically no success.

The Wolverines didn’t allow McNamara to check out of a run into a pass; they continued to be stymied at the line of scrimmage and seemed content punting the football.  This put a plethora of stress on Michigan’s defense, and this style of play won’t bode well against the better Big Ten teams in the near future.

McNamara completed a beautiful throw right before the end of the first half to Mike Sainristil that went for 51 yards and put Michigan into field goal range.  That strike to Sainristil would be his only catch on the afternoon; he’d also lead the Wolverines in receiving Saturday afternoon.

This one-dimensional offense won’t cut it against Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.

I was calling for J.J. McCarthy after seeing McNamara skip a ball during a short third-down pass attempt, leading to the third straight three-and-out Saturday.  That was just a ten-yard pass attempt that should be an easy completion to move the chains at this level, but McNamara failed to set his feet and deliver the ball on time.

Next. Lions: 3 perfect trade destinations for Jamie Collins Sr.. dark

This is very concerning moving forward, and Harbaugh should turn the reins over to McCarthy next week against Wisconsin rather than just throwing him into the fire when the team needs a fourth-quarter comeback, and believe me, if they continue running this offense as the season grows old, they will need a fourth-quarter miracle sooner than later.