Twenty minutes after Michigan wrapped up a blowout win over Minnesota — on the road, against a ranked team, no less — Josh Gattis left a short message on Twitter.
“1-0,” he wrote. “We will clean it up and keep working!”
Last year when Gattis made similar remarks, they sounded like excuses for an offense that was inconsistent and made too many mistakes. This time, they felt like a nitpick.
Sure, there are always things for an offense to clean up, but the offense that showed up in Minneapolis Saturday felt far removed from that of Gattis’ first year.
The Wolverines put up 49 points, more than they did against any team last year except Rutgers. They didn’t have a single turnover. Ten different players had a run or pass play of at least 10 yards. Four of seven third downs were converted.
A year after Gattis came to Michigan preaching “speed in space,” here it finally was in all its glory. Finally, the Wolverines seemed to have a cohesive gameplan designed to fit its offense — and executed it.
“It feels great for me because I don’t have to do too much,” junior quarterback Joe Milton said. “I’ve got a lot of playmakers. Give those guys the ball because that’s what they’re here for, they’re gonna make a play.”
Indeed, Milton wasn’t asked to do a lot. Despite Milton’s well-known arm strength, he attempted few deep bombs Saturday. Instead, he tossed screen passes and end-arounds and ran the ball himself. But the reason Milton didn’t need to get too fancy was because the plan worked. He finished 15-of-22 for 225 yards on the night.
Whether it was junior wide receiver Ronnie Bell breaking tackles en route to a 30-yard run in, senior fullback Ben Mason cartwheeling the ball into the end zone, junior running back Hassan Haskins barreling through defenders or Milton keeping the ball himself, each play seemed like it was catered to the person making it.
“Our gameplan going in was just, make big plays, you hear me?” Haskins said. “We’ve got playmakers, we’ve just gotta make big plays. We’ve got all the tools. … Everyone gonna touch the field, when you’ve got so many you can just go to whoever you want. Everybody get their shine on, everybody do their thing and just go like that.”
Last year, Michigan largely lacked an offensive identity. Against teams like Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, it played too sloppy and turned the ball over too many times. Meanwhile, it consistently came up short in big moments.
Saturday was, of course, one game. The next step for the Wolverines is doing it again and again. But the win over the Golden Gophers showed what Michigan’s offense can be — one full of playmakers and capable of getting those playmakers the ball consistently.
“I just trust them and I just wanted them to do that because they’re talented guys,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Just put talented guys out there … and see what happens and let everybody be surprised at how good he does. That’s what I envisioned, that’s how I visualized this game.”
Just put talented guys out there and see what happens. If the Wolverines can do that every Saturday, they could have an offense capable of making noise against good teams. That’s credit to Gattis and his offensive philosophy that seems to finally be coming to fruition.
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