Saturday night sucked. Braylon Edwards was correct in his assessment. And while I totally agree with him, I must admit that things are not as bad as they seemed while watching that sick joke of a game. Still, this needs to be a wakeup call because it looked like the Wolverines slept through most of their opener.
While debriefing, Ian (a dear friend and a University of Michigan graduate) and I decided this showing was reminiscent of the trip to Utah that kicked off the 2015 season. That was Jim Harbaugh’s first game as Michigan’s head coach. The final score of that game (coincidentally) was also 24-17. Three years later and we’re still seeing the same damn problems plague this team that we know is capable of more. That’s what’s troubling. That’s why Edwards went off on Twitter and why many of us went off on our television sets. It’s been nothing but more of the same and it’s beginning to boil over.
Expectations change perception. And at some point (which has undoubtedly been reached now), that’s enough with the excuses. It’s time to get the job done already.
It doesn’t matter that it came down to three or four plays that easily could’ve gone the other way and swung the game. They didn’t, and the game did not swing in Michigan’s favor. Ever. Notre Dame scored on its first possession, and not once did it relinquish control of the game. At no point was I given reason to believe that Michigan was going to come back and win.
The issue was not quarterback play. Shea Patterson was good. He wasn’t as good as we all made him out to be, but that’s on us, not him. His offensive line let him down. I underestimated Notre Dame’s defensive front. They set up shop in the backfield and feasted all night long. There were minuscule holes for Karan Higdon and company on running plays. Patterson was constantly being forced to get rid of the ball in less than three seconds. It’s damn near impossible to run an effective offense under those conditions.
One of the reasons I’m upset is the noticeable change we saw in the offensive game plan when Dylan McCaffrey was pressed into action. McCaffrey completed four passes. Two of them converted third downs. Twice they got him on the move, out of the pocket, with receivers running quick-hitters in front of him. I saw none of that with Patterson in the game. McCaffrey also tucked it and took off a couple times for solid gains. I saw that once from Patterson, and it was on the final drive when it was already too late.
It was already too late because Harbaugh’s clock management in that fourth quarter was curious, to say the least. Atrocious is another word for it. You’d have thought it was the first day of fall camp the way the Wolverines aimlessly ambled down the field, eating 6:49 off the clock before turning it over on downs. Even on the late scoring drive to draw within one score, the two-minute offense was non-existent. There was zero sense of urgency. Remaining calm is one thing. Lollygagging around, unorganized, is another. That’s on the coaches.
You put it all together and you’re left looking at a team that (yet again) did not appear to be properly prepared. Harbaugh wants Edwards to direct his criticism to him, not his players. That’s about the only thing I can give Harbaugh props for right now.