When Sherrone Moore spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon, the tight ends coach was the fifth member of the Michigan football program in as many days to cite a disconnect between practices and games.

The Wolverines, we’ve been told, excel in practice, only to falter on Saturdays. If it’s a rehearsed PR line, it’s a good one. Michigan’s practices are closed to the media, making the refrain impossible to test. Maybe, like the Wolverines’ annual offseason hype, it’s a mechanism of stringing a fanbase along — a way of telling them, “Hey, keep watching — we’re close.”

But on Saturday, and five more Saturdays after that, COVID-19 permitting, the proof will be in the pudding. Saying that practices have to translate to games won’t fly for multiple weeks in a row. “Our expectation is to win this (Wisconsin) game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

And for that to happen, Michigan’s high-level practices need to translate to Saturday.

For the Wolverines, it starts with their most maligned group. After losing Lavert Hill and Ambry Thomas from last year’s unit that allowed the 10th-fewest passing yards in the country, Michigan’s cornerbacks are giving up 287.7 passing yards per game, putting them at 104th in the country.

Led by juniors Vincent Gray and Gemon Green, this was the group that prompted Harbaugh’s first mention of the disconnect between practices and games.

“Preparation is really good,” Harbaugh said Saturday. “We’re seeing It in practice, seeing what guys are capable of doing, and then getting into the games and making those game plays — trusting their technique, trusting their fundamentals, trusting their talent and trusting their innate abilities and translating that into the game plan is what we’re learning.”

Put simply, what the coaching staff is learning is that those fundamentals, that talent, those innate abilities — they aren’t showing up in games. That’s why game plans aren’t working.

On the Inside Michigan Football radio show Monday night, cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich broke down his unit’s problems: Staying underneath routes, turning their heads, avoiding using hands too much. All are techniques that he harps on every day in practice.

And yet, the results aren’t there.

“There’s a disconnect between practice and what has happened on the game field the last two weekends,” Zordich said. “I watch our guys at the top of some of these routes and their body control is not in control. We’ve got to fix that. In practice, it’s OK, but on game day, why is it different? That’s something I’ve got to figure out.”

Moore, too, has seen a difference in his unit. He said junior tight end Erick All, plagued by drops in games, has been showcasing his ceiling in practices. It’s why he’s still Michigan’s first-choice tight end despite fifth-year senior Nick Eubanks’s return from injury two weeks ago.

To try to bridge the gap, Michigan has rearranged some of its practice schedules, aiming to ensure players are sharper on Saturdays.

“Trying to keep it fresh for them and keep the energy going,” Moore said. “But at the end of the day, we gotta continue to execute on the field.”

For players, the focus is making the most of every part of practice. On Tuesday, sophomore receiver Giles Jackson emphasized taking better notes in meetings so that he can “put it all together on game days.”

Despite Nico Collins — a 6-foot-4 downfield threat on every play — opting out, Jackson said the receiving corps as a whole has shown an ability to make contested catches, as well as create separation, in practices. In games, those qualities have been sporadic, making life more difficult for junior quarterback Joe Milton.

“When it’s all together, we’ll be a really good offense and a good receivers room,” Jackson said.

The challenge now is making that happen on Saturdays.

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