The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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20 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2020 BY CHRIS BALAS "How did we get here?" T hat's the question much of the Michigan fan base was asking after Wisconsin's 49‑11 drubbing of U‑M in Ann Arbor Nov. 14, the second straight year in which the Badgers embarrassed the Wolverines. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was brought back to compete for cham‑ pionships and elevate the program back to glory; while he made strides in his first several years, his sixth team has many wondering if even the prodigal son can find answers after a dismal 1‑3 start. The young, mistake‑prone of‑ fense was a big reason why. After an encouraging start at Minnesota in which they racked up 256 yards rush‑ ing and 225 passing in a balanced ef‑ fort, the unit has been inconsistent, at best. The Wolverines averaged 26.3 points per game through four con‑ tests, which ranked 83rd nationally as of Nov. 16, and stood 107th with 117.0 yards per game rushing. U‑M managed only 13 yards on the ground and averaged 0.7 yards per carry at Indiana Nov. 7 and followed that with 47 yards on the ground the next week in the loss to the Badgers, with a 2.5‑yard clip. Granted, U‑M was missing its top two tackles in injured redshirt sopho‑ mores Ryan Hayes and Jalen May‑ field, but for a program that prides itself on its 'next man up' mentality, it wasn't good enough. Head coach Jim Harbaugh admit‑ ted as much after the Badger blowout. "The thing that stands out the most is coaching … [getting] the players to do what they're asked to do," Har‑ baugh said. "Making sure that they have an understanding of what to do and therefore they can go for it, because there seems to be hesitation, seems to be some confusion, some lack of communication." Not just on offense, but in all phases. There had been some positives through four games on offense, but they were too few and far between. Below, we grade each position at the halfway point of the shortened regu‑ lar season: Quarterbacks Grade: C- Redshirt sophomore Joe Milton looked the part in a 49‑24 blowout of Minnesota to open the season, com‑ pleting 15 of 22 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown with a quarter‑ back rating of 169.1. He also notched eight carries for 52 yards and one touchdown, and looked in command of the offense. "Credit" the Golden Gophers, however, for making it easy on him. Their defense has proven to be abys‑ mal through four games, ranking 12th in the conference and 93rd na‑ tionally by allowing 447.3 yards per game, and they didn't make Milton beat them with long and intermedi‑ ate throws. Most of U‑M's big plays started at or near the line of scrim‑ mage, a formula none of the next three opponents would allow. Milton still threw for 300 yards in the loss to Michigan State and 344 at Indiana, but he made critical mistakes (two interceptions in both games) in losses to the Hoosiers and the Bad‑ gers, the latter his toughest game to date. He completed only nine of 19 passes for 94 yards overall, with inter‑ ceptions on his first two drives, one a terrible throw, that set the tone and put U‑M behind the eight ball. Milton had completed 74 of 126 passes (58.7 percent) for 967 yards with four touchdowns and four picks through four games, but redshirt CONSISTENTLY CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT INCONSISTENT Midseason Grades On Offense Are A Mixed Bag Redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton had an encouraging debut in the season opener, then threw for 300 or more yards in the second and third games, but was benched while struggling against Wisconsin in week four. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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