You see, this is exactly the kind of game from Michigan that makes it all interesting: a game that is impenetrable on analysis and leaves everyone either irritated or confused as to the outcome.
The Jim Harbaugh-led Wolverines are the most entertaining when they’re the least predictable, and on Saturday Jekyll and Hyde made their way to some sort of quality victory over a semi-decent opponent. May be! Because after a dominant first half Michigan did absolutely nothing in the second, failing to score a point or even get a first down until five minutes were left in the game. the game. They ended up winning 20-13, but at one point it was just a draw as to how it would turn out. Which is very, very funny.
Greg Schiano probably deserves decent credit for making a few adjustments at halftime, but my theory that Jim Harbaugh was cursed by a gnarled troll for stealing his apples is a lot more fun, so I’m going with that.
I have to admit, starting a game by running the ball five hundred times in a row (like Michigan did on Saturday) is a nice boss move, especially when it works. It makes your offensive line invincible, bleeds the clock like a 17th century doctor trying to cure “bad moods” and opens the passing game. In their first practice, the Wolverines executed the ball 15 times, reluctantly passed twice and scored an easy touchdown.
The problem is, if you keep running the ball, the other team will end up thinking that you are incapable of doing anything else. And then they will test this theory.
Michigan’s (so far very successful) racing game isn’t that fancy, but they sort of even less fantasy in the second half against Rutgers. The sweep and punch concepts the Wolverines had used to arm Blake Corum’s speed faded in favor of the headlong run into the brick wall that Schiano and his company were happy to provide.
I also think quarterback Cade McNamara is injured, or bad, or both. All in all: McNamara had 9/16 for 163 yards, including 156 in the first half, and the Wolverines as a whole ran for 112 yards on 38 carries.
The good news for Michigan is defensive end Aidan Hutchinson lives up to the bill I questioned at the start of the season. He already has 4.5 sacks this season and has registered one against Rutgers. Defense is still basically strong, although perhaps a bit slow on absorption.
This is because the bad news is that there is now a plan to confuse them. Rutgers gladly used all kinds of moves and made Michigan think twice, as they often deployed quarterback Noah Vedral in the running game. It didn’t work well enough for the Scarlet Knights to win, but against a team with no clear talent disparity, the Wolverines could be in trouble.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)
Gene Hackman has never performed poorly in his career. The Poseidon adventure isn’t high art, but it’s a lot of fun watching Hackman chew up landscapes and lead a group of 1970s archetypes through an upside down ocean liner. So maybe with him at the center, it’s no surprise that The Poseidon Adventure turns into a very soggy Twilight Zone episode halfway through. Once the movie is over, showing people drenched in jets of seawater and falling from objects, it’s mostly about carefully documenting the process of stressed characters screaming at each other and dying at random. It’s wacky, but it’s also shot well and has gritty industrial DNA that later films like Alien would borrow liberally (especially the last half hour).
Gene Hackman! He is great!
I will keep this thing at KEEP for the moment; as expected, Michigan eventually faced a team that had the means to force them to be one-dimensional, and it almost bit their ass. The key word here is “almost”, and it will be interesting to see if October Michigan ends up betraying September Michigan’s promise by being loot, as is tradition.
Which begs the question: Do Michigan fans trust their head coach? The elements are there for a good (but maybe not great) team, but can Jim Harbaugh finally learn from his mistakes and use them to improve instead of making them worse and worse?
Wisconsin is next. They are tottering, desperate, and maybe a little bad. If Michigan wants to prove its good faith, now is the time.