For the first time since 1928, the Wolverines lost their first three home games of the season. Penn State had not scored on their first drive, got a stop on their opponents first drive, had the lead at halftime, held an opponent to less than 30 points in a game, and won a game all season, yet they came into the Big House and did all of those things. Michigan trailed most of the contest and once again put forth a lackluster effort at home.
The offense was stagnant for most of the day. Last week's spark plug, Cade McNamara wasn’t the same player this week. After getting hurt on the Wolverines' second drive of the game, McNamara looked timid. The redshirt freshman tried to tough it out, but it was clear he wasn’t right.
McNamara, who was letting the ball fly all over the field last week, rarely threw a ball more than ten yards down the field in this contest, which forced Michigan to be run-heavy and rely on short passes. McNamara threw 25 times in the game and failed to reach the 100-yard mark, as it was an ugly day for the Wolverines passing attack.
One of the lone bright spots on offense was Hassan Haskins, who rushed for over 100 yards for the second straight week. However, Michigan’s coaching staff couldn’t get out of its own way: AGAIN. After Haskins dominated on the ground rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown on a drive, Haskins only received one carry on the next three Michigan possessions, which each resulted in punts. That’s simply inexcusable by the Wolverines coaching staff.
The Wolverines finally took a snap under center. Michigan has been terrible in short-yardage situations partly due to the fact they refuse to go under-center. However, against Penn State, they did it twice. The first time it worked, as Ben Mason threw a nice block to lead Haskins into the end zone. However, the second time failed, as the 6-5, 243-pound quarterback Joe Milton failed to pick up a 4th and 1 on a QB sneak. Though the second attempt didn’t work, it was one of the first notable adjustments Michigan has made on offense all season.
With a quarterback who couldn’t really throw it down the field, the Wolverines offensive play-calling was so predictable. There were no gadget plays to try and swing the momentum of the game. Instead, Michigan kept letting McNamara throw the ball two yards down the field.
Overall it was an uninspiring effort by Michigan’s offense, which scored just 17 points against a team who had given up an average of 36 points per game this season.
The story of the day for Michigan’s defense was tackling. It was simply atrocious, as every other play another Nittany Lion seemed to break a tackle. Penn State, who came into the day having not rushed for over 250 yards in a game, ran for 254 yards and three touchdowns against the Wolverines. Even though Penn State is on its fourth string running back due to injuries, they had no problem running all over the Wolverines defense.
Penn State, who had at least one turnover in each of its first five games of the season, didn’t turn the ball over once against Michigan. Though a possible turnover was overturned after review, the Wolverines simply can’t seem to find a way to make big plays on defense.
Michigan did seem to get a little boost in the pass rush from Kwity Paye’s return and Daxton Hill played fantastic after his few blunders last week. However, there wasn’t much else that went well for Michigan’s defense, as they failed to come up with stops when they needed them.
Not having Giles Jackson to return punts cost the Wolverines a possession, as his replacement Mike Sainristil muffed a punt and Blake Corum almost muffed another one. Jake Moody made his first field goal of the year, as Moody is now 1-for-4 on field goal attempts this season.
In a game where Michigan never really got going, a surprise onside kick or a fake punt may have been worth a try.
It’s time to start over. Jim Harbaugh, Josh Gattis, and Don Brown all need to go. The team lacks energy, and the play-calling lacks imagination. Yes, Michigan is a young team and got hit hard by injuries and opt-outs, but this coaching staff has this team unprepared. It took them until Week 6 to finally take a snap under-center and until Week 5 to find a quarterback. The defense still hasn’t really found anything that works, and the offense still does not know how to manage the clock. Despite consistently recruiting top ten classes, the Wolverines continue to struggle on the field, and it is clear the coaching staff has no answers. It’s time to try something new.