The Michigan Wolverines hosted the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday, and it was the exact result that this Wolverine fan base was expecting and needing. Jim Harbaugh and his men ended a four-game losing streak on Saturday by beating the Broncos 49-3. Shea Patterson and Nico Collins also ended a 364-day drought without a wide receiver touchdown. Many people, including myself, can’t believe that is even a statistic, but I bet Jim Harbaugh and the boys are happy to get that monkey off their back. Jim Harbaugh also praised an offensive line looked a lot better, even though it was against a MAC team, the offensive line did look more in sync. The big uglies paved the way for Chris Evan’s and Karan Higdon’s combined 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Karan Higdon ran for 140 of his 156-yard day in the first half alone. Chris Evans completed the prolific tandem by getting in the end zone twice. You can call that a good day in the office for those two. Alright, let’s get to it.
Jim Harbaugh and his playcalling is still a very prevalent concern for some people. They aren’t crazy either. Yes, the Wolverines ran Western Michigan out of the building, but Harbaugh ran the ball 36 times. Yet, Shea Patterson was incredibly accurate. Completing 70% of his passes for 12 of 17 for 125 yards, also slinging three touchdowns. We saw what this passing game could look like, and if Patterson gets time, then the sky’s the limit for this offense. We also saw what the power game can do what is designed to do, which is grind down a defense. The criticism of Harbaugh is that power game is most likely not going to work against better teams. We already know that this offensive line is suspect. We saw it against Notre Dame; we saw it all of last year and the year before that. And Michigan has lost a lot of games because of it. This offense puckers against good teams and gets more visible with every big game we play. Take last week, for example, I know it was the first game with a new QB and a new offense, but there has to be some semblance of development up front. Notre Dame has a great defense, that is easy to see. But there is no reason why this offensive line who has no Freshman starters and with all of these guys having at least a season under their belt. The odds of Harbaugh and this offensive line establishing a run game against actual defensive fronts aren’t likely, but that is where Shea Patterson comes in. We all saw what that kid can do when he has more than a second to throw the ball. Throw the ball more, Harbaugh. PLEASE.
The wide receiving corps. We finally got what we have been waiting 364 days for, a wide receiver touchdown and another two for good measure. Shea threw a bomb to Nico Collins, for his first career touchdown. Then throwing an absolute dime to Donavan People’s Jones, also scoring his first receiving touchdown in the winged helmet. Again, you can make the argument that these plays were against a MAC secondary, but these young wide receivers looked good against Notre Dame as well. If Harbaugh let Shea sling the pigskin a little more, then that is a totally different game. Either way, you look at it, this wide receiver group has developed under the tutelage of Jim McElwain, and fans should be excited to see these boys further down the road.
The next “who’s hot” is an individual rather than a group. Dylan McCaffrey once again was very impressive. You can see why he beat out Brandon Peters for the backup spot, as he has proven himself on the field of play. He only one pass and it was a twenty-yard dart to Jake McCurry for a touchdown. He kept the ball on a couple of read options and proved that he can run more of the spread style of offense. Which is not what many people were expecting this year, but it has been effective so far with McCaffrey running this offense.
The last who’s hot for the day is going to be on the defensive side of the ball. Josh Ross had one hell of a game. Five tackles four of those being solo, he was flying to the ball all game. And if he didn’t make the tackle, he was next in line too. The 6’2 sophomore, and little brother of former Michigan linebacker, Jame Ross, was standing out to me throughout this entire game and did a great job of plugging those gaps up front. Josh Ross has been a guy that at that weakside linebacker spot all offseason. Don Brown praised him as being one of the standouts defensively, and he’s living up to the hype so far.
This team showed flashes of greatness on Saturday. We just need this performance when it matters. Ever heard the saying: “big-time players, make big-time plays in, big-time opportunities”? In Michigan’s case, it is the coaching. Not the talent. We have had the talent ever since Jim Harbaugh has laned in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh just lays down in big games and plays too conservatively. There is a play that sticks out in my head when I think of this, and that is last week against Notre Dame. Michigan just got an interception early in the third quarter, and Michigan has the momentum. Ensuing offensive play for Michigan, Notre Dame puts the entire state of Indiana in the box and Harbaugh runs a toss sweep, and Higdon gets buried for a massive loss. You just killed Notre Dame’s drive; you’re down by a score, why not take a shot on the first play and possibly take the lead? Harbaugh has a 6’5 wide receiver, the No.1 wide receiver coming out of the 2016 class, and a 6’8 tight end and so many other pass catchers he can lean on.
It should pick your poison at that point. Michigan’s offense should be a well oiled, BALANCED machine at this point. In the “big games” Harbaugh needs to trust Shea a little bit more, and swallow his pride and realize that his offensive line just is not ready to take a game over against a quality defensive front. And games like Western Michigan, this past Saturday and SMU this week, these are the perfect games to let Shea be Shea. Let him throw thirty -five plus times and get him used to throwing the ball to these receivers. Because I guarantee you, in the “big games” we probably aren’t going to be able to run the ball for 308 yards as a team like they did against Western. Let ‘er rip, Jim. As always, Go Blue.