With all of the personnel losses it suffered, the Michigan offense could be excused for some opening-day jitters.
Nevertheless, the Wolverines” performance against Miami (Ohio) left a lot to be desired. The postgame statistics don”t look that bad Michigan scored 31 points and finished the game with 403 yards of total offense. Purely based on those numbers, one might be inclined to say that Michigan had a decent day moving the football.
But, anyone who watched the game could tell you that the Wolverines” offense spent a fair chunk of the first three quarters sputtering. To paraphrase ABC commentator Keith Jackson, Michigan was doing the tango one, two, three, kick.
After three quarters, Michigan was clinging to a 17-6 lead, and if it hadn”t been for several crucial turnovers, Miami might very well have had the lead. Early in the fourth quarter, Jeremy LeSeuer”s interception of Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone essentially put the game away. But afterwards it was clear Michigan”s offense has a very long way to go.
“Offensively, we had some missed assignments up front that we can”t have happen,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “Some of those mistakes have to do with communication.”
As is the case every year, Michigan”s offense is predicated on a power running game. Although B.J. Askew rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries, the Wolverines struggled at times to establish themselves on the ground.
Part of the problem was that the offensive line was breaking in four new starters. But, regardless, the sight of Askew being knocked for a loss on a 4th and 1 had to have fans pining for Anthony Thomas.
“The running backs missed some holes,” Carr said. “On the fourth down and one play, we missed an assignment. We didn”t block a guy coming off the backside and he made a good tackle.”
That was a buzzword amongst the Wolverines after the game correctable.
Virtually everyone seemed more than willing to admit that Michigan hadn”t played a particularly solid game. They all acknowledged breakdowns throughout the offense, but at the same time, everyone sounded equally confident that all of the mistakes were repairable through film study and added practice.
“We have some things to work on, some things to correct,” Michigan quarterback John Navarre said. “The good part is that they”re correctable things we can get better.”
Despite that optimism, the fact remains that Michigan”s performance against Miami won”t cut it when the Wolverines travel to Seattle this weekend to play Washington, which comes into the game ranked fifteenth in the country.
The Huskies” defense, anchored by star tackle Larry Triplett, is big, fast and mean, and a stumbling Michigan offense will be easy pickings.
“The team”s confident that we can get better,” Navarre said. “It”s not that we played horrible football. We had some first-game cracks to fill up, but we feel good.”